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Wyckoff holds Latino Health Symposium

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Medical experts will prescribe advice on the most pressing health issues facing Ridgewood’s growing Hispanic population at Friday’s second Latino Health Symposium at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center.

An encore of a similar event held last year that drew 130 participants, the conference is part of the hospital’s ongoing efforts to meet the needs of a large Hispanic community around the hospital, which sits one block from the Ridgewood border in Brooklyn.

“It has come out of a demonstrated need that people have expressed to us,” said William Green, vice president of external affairs at Wyckoff. “That’s pretty much the philosophy behind it.”

Figures for the 2002 census show that Hispanics account for one of every two residents of Ridgewood, and Green said they account for an even greater portion of hospital patients — perhaps as high as 90 percent.

“The population obviously is showing a sustained increase in the demographics of Latinos,” said Esther Huertas, a program director at the Puerto Rican Family Institute in Brooklyn who serves on the hospital’s Latino Advisory Committee. “It is important for the hospital as well as the community to have services that are appropriate.”

The symposium is designed as a forum for leaders representing community-based organizations to learn about medical issues important to Latinos, so they can pass the information on to the individuals who could benefit from it.

Some panels will be conducted in English and others in Spanish, Green said.

A series of panel discussions led by medical personnel will address the topics of asthma awareness, teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, elderly care, the effects of Sept. 11, Medicaid managed care overview, and Family and Child Health Plus.

“It’s not that we’re a lot different than mainstream America,” Green said. “It’s just that the devastation is greater.”

“There’s a correlation between education and early preventative treatment,” Green continued. “Many of our people are not highly educated, so it takes a great effort to motivate, educate and outreach.”

The keynote address will be delivered by Dr. Emilio Carrillo, the medical director of the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare Systems.

Wyckoff is a 350-bed community hospital that is a member of the New York Presbyterian Health Care System.

Wyckoff is currently facing a discrimination complaint filed with the state attorney general’s office by the Brooklyn activist group Make the Road by Walking, which claims Hispanic patients are largely dissatisfied with the hospital’s translation services.

But Green has staunchly defended the hospital’s commitment to Spanish-speaking patients and pointed to Friday’s symposium as one example of services geared to Latinos.

Green said the hospital’s attorneys are currently formulating an official legal response to the complaint.

Still, he said, “the invitation is open” if representatives of Make the Road by Walking would like to attend the symposium themselves.

“Anybody who wants to come is welcome to attend,” he said. “We sent them information regarding an invitation. They can even set up a table.”

The symposium will be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, 374 Stockholm St. in Brooklyn.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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