Senator Lucio's Letterhead

OP-ED FROM SEN. EDDIE LUCIO, JR.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 6, 2006
CONTACT: Doris Sanchez , Press Secretary
Phone: (512) 463-0385

Addressing Hispanic Heritage and Challenges We Face

As we celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, we should be proud of our accomplishments and in tune with the needs of our communities.

Between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15, we commemorate the contributions and advancements Hispanics have made. But more involvement is needed. Sitting on the sidelines works well for spectator sports, but our communities need active participants.

One of those active civic members was my Dad, who passed away just recently. He gave more to the community than he was offered, including his service during World War II. He taught us that our first and foremost responsibilities were patriotism to country, obtaining an education and service to our communities.

Unfortunately, too many of us are falling by the wayside. Hispanic areas generally suffer from higher rates of unemployment, dropouts and diseases. We rank low in access to affordable health care, higher education attainment and voter turnout.

During the 32 years I've been in public service, I continually remind people to vote regardless of party affiliation. This is one of the most important responsibilities we have as citizens of this country and this is one of the best methods of ensuring that our voices are heard. Only we can change the dismal turnout at the polls. The upcoming election for statewide and local candidates will be Nov. 7, and we should make every effort to vote and to remind family and friends to cast their votes.

We should also encourage family and friends to become involved in their children's education. The Center for Public Policy Priorities reports that of all students who began ninth grade in 2000-01, 6.3 percent of Hispanic students dropped out, compared to 3.7 percent of African Americans and 1.9 percent of non-Hispanic white students. According to data from the Texas Education Agency, Hispanic students are 3.5 times more likely to drop out than their non-Hispanic counterparts. And dropouts face a greater risk for low-wage jobs and unemployment.

Besides encouraging parents to become involved in school, we can become mentors and tutors. As a legislator, one of my goals is to enhance funding for literacy and other programs to help children who become discouraged because they lack reading, math and English skills. They are also in classrooms larger than children from other ethnicities. The Pew Hispanic Center reports that larger school environments are linked to lower student achievement. It is imperative that we lower the student-to-teacher ratio for all students. We must also work to dispel cultural myths contending that finding a job supersedes finishing school.

October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Some cancers affect our population disproportionately because of a lack of affordable health care that also limits access to preventive care. If detected early, breast cancer has a 97 percent survival rate. It is predicted that in 2006, 2,491 Hispanic women in Texas will develop breast cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that this year about 39,940 new cancer cases in men and 42,140 cancer cases in women are expected to be diagnosed among Hispanics. Clinical exams and mammograms can save lives, but we must accelerate funding sources and awareness programs.

Some of my own family members have battled breast and other types of cancers, so I am keenly aware of the need for preventive and specialized care, as well as continued dollars for research to find a cure. Another serious illness we must battle is cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in Texas. This disease almost claimed my life in 2003, when I suffered a heart attack but from which I fully recovered after receiving top-notch medical assistance.

Diabetes, another highly prevalent disease among Hispanics, is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Contributors to these illnesses are obesity, lack of physical activity and poor nutrition. A 2003 study showed that Hispanics eat fewer than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, fewer than do whites and African-Americans. One of my legislative goals is to improve nutrition and reduce obesity among all Texas children and adults. Continued support from our health experts should lead us to expand affordable health care for our South Texas residents along the Border. These are also reasons I fought to establish a Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC), which should alleviate doctor shortages and hopefully attract Hispanic and other youth from the area to enter the medical field.

It is fitting to commend the many Hispanics and non-Hispanics who labor to improve our communities. I encourage those on the sidelines to join the frontlines.

As always, if you have any input or questions regarding these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact Doris Sanchez, my press secretary, 512-463-0385. (747 words)

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