If you walk past Seattle’s Mexican Consulate, you’ll often see people outside the front door, overflowing onto the sidewalk of 3rd Avenue. Inside, every chair is occupied and men and women lean against the walls.
As they wait for help with passports or birth certificates, everyone will be invited to visit the Ventanilla de Salud, or Health Window.
The Health Window is actually a room, where 35-40 immigrants a day might get their blood pressure checked, learn about AIDS, or get help with health insurance and Washington Healthplanfinder.
Focusing on the community’s particular health needs
“More than anything it started as prevention, offering health information regarding the most common illnesses affecting the Latino community: diabetes, nutrition and blood pressure,” said Lilian Córdoba Vázquez, Consul for Community Outreach. On Fridays, the Health Window offers free screenings for glucose, cholesterol, blood pressure and body mass index.
Many Mexican immigrants have never visited a doctor or nurse. Language is a big barrier. “They don’t know that they have the right to an interpreter,” Córdoba Vázquez said. The consulate makes referrals to low-cost community clinics with Spanish-speaking staff.
From humble beginnings to major partnerships
“The Health Window started more or less in 2003 but it was a more modest effort,” explains Córdoba Vázquez. “From 2010 on, it became an everyday thing.”
It’s continued to evolve and now operates five days a week, from 9:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. In 2012, the consulate signed an operating agreement with SeaMar Community Health Centers that allows the Health Window to function indefinitely into the future. Some of the presentations come from partners, including WithinReach and Molina Healthcare.
Dispelling confusion about health insurance
Health insurance through Washington Healthplanfinder has become a major focus at the Health Window since October. Overall, Latinos are approximately four times as likely to be uninsured as whites, according to research last year by Public Health – Seattle & King County.
“Many Mexican immigrants are so confused or frightened by their own status, that they ignore the fact that their children may be eligible for health care in the U.S.,” said Córdoba Vázquez.
Applying for health coverage will not affect someone’s immigration status, chances of becoming a lawful permanent resident (getting a “green card”), or becoming a naturalized citizen.
Raising awareness is one reason the Mexican Consulate is partnering with other Latino organizations and King County for a major enrollment event with Spanish-speaking assisters in March.
If You Go:
Saturday, March 1st, 2014; from noon – 4pm
South Park Community Center
8319 8th Ave S
Seattle, WA 98108