Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Happy Cinco de Mayo: A Time to Reflect on a Growing Opportunity for Population Based Care Management

Cinco de Mayo is upon us. This is a day when millions celebrate Mexican heritage and pride. The Disease Management Care Blog's first real exposure to the significance of the day came from its Spanish-learning spawns' high school celebraciĆ³ns. Given the growing importance of our southern neighbor, it's a pity that the DMCB took so long. It should have gotten a better appreciation of Hispanic culture much earlier in its education and career.

For example, the DMCB learned, thanks to George Friedman's book The Next 100 Years, that Mexico will likely be an important and ultimately welcome source of population growth for the United States. As the rising age of persons in China, Japan and many countries in Europe stress economic vitality, the U.S. can look forward to many decades of economic growth thanks to a young and vibrant population seeking the opportunity of the American dream. It's not too late for the DMCB to appreciate that: it is the child of immigrants.

However, Mr. Friedman also points out that in contrast to other immigrant groups who have fallen into America's melting pot, it's unlikely that that persons of Mexican heritage will be culturally assimilated. Thanks to lingering social and economic links to a homeland right next door, Mexicans and other persons of Hispanic heritage will remain a distinct group: cultures and language will intermingle, much like they do in other border zones around the world. As Arizona's travails amply demonstrate, it won't necessarily be a trouble-free process. However, the DMCB is confident that Americans, after choosing every other alternative, will finally make the right decisions when it comes to immigration reform.

The implications for population-based care management are significant. Almost 20 years ago, the AMA recognized the special challenges of providing health care for the Hispanic population, which, sadly, still seem to be with us today. The good news is that there is a growing body of science to help guide the way in (for example) promoting exercise and reducing hospitalizations in this group. Given the growth of this segment of society, its special circumstances, the burden of disease and the lingering health disparities, the DMCB views this is as a huge opportunity for the growth of care management organizations. Companies that learn how to serve this population should do very well in the future.

Cinco de Mayo is not only a time of celebration, it's a time to remind ourselves of the work to be done and rewards that await.


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