Today's post is a guest blog post by Vanessa Gonzalez-Plumhoff, Director of Latino Leadership and Engagement at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. You can email her at Vanessa.Gonzalez@ppfa.org.

It is no surprise that working long hours to provide for our families leaves many of us without the time to make our health care a priority.  Between work, taking care of our families, and paying bills, it’s not only hard finding the time to head to a doctor’s office and sit for hours in a waiting room, but for many, it’s hard to imagine losing pay with the additional stress of the costs of daycare, transportation, and paying for a visit — especially without health insurance.  This is where Planned Parenthood can help. 

Planned Parenthood’s doors are open for all those times when a member of our family, or friend, offers a loving “¿como te sientes?”  Services include a range of preventive services, such as screenings for cancer, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), birth control, and basic women’s health care, as well as medically accurate sex education to millions of people each year.  Many health centers also provide affordable services on a sliding scale.

Planned Parenthood recognizes that Latinas are the fastest growing group of women in the country, but also most in need of health care: 

-Latinas are more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer than any other group and have the third-highest death rates from it.

-Latinas are 20 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than non-Hispanic white women, and breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among Latinas.

-Latinas are more likely to be uninsured, at 37 percent, than women of any other group and approximately 20 percent of us have not visited a physician in the last year.

These are just a few of the statistics that help paint the realistic and grim picture of Latina health and why access to the quality, affordable health care at Planned Parenthood health centers is so desperately needed.  Last year, Planned Parenthood health centers provided care to approximately 630,000 Latinos, that’s one in four patients, so the odds are that you know someone who has been helped by the dedicated staff and can tell you why Planned Parenthood and the services provided by Planned Parenthood health centers are so vital for the health of the Latino community.  

Just a few weeks ago, a woman asked me exactly what Planned Parenthood did.  I explained to her the services Planned Parenthood health centers provide, including breast exams and referrals for mammograms.  She smiled and said there was a history of breast cancer in her family, but that she could never afford to go to a doctor for a screening and was honestly always too scared.  But now she said she would request an afternoon off, schedule an appointment, and bring along some friends!  This is just one of the many stories that we hear on a daily basis.  

Another way that Planned Parenthood has proven its commitment to our community is by supporting the promotores de salud program.  This program trains community health workers in sexual health to provide individual and group education in their communities, primarily in Spanish.  Latinas are able to tell their stories face-to-face while providing valuable information and reproductive health education in homes or community settings.  It’s through this program that many women find themselves first connected to Planned Parenthood. 

We work hard and sacrifice so that our families never go without, yet we still find many of our comadres doing just that.  Planned Parenthood is here so that we can help stop the cycle and ensure that every Latina who needs health care has a place to get it.  

To find the nearest Planned Parenthood health center or for more information, check out www.plannedparenthood.org, or for Spanish, http://www.plannedparenthood.org/esp/