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NY Fed, Puerto Rico Public Health Trust hold event on ‘Investing in Health’

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, in partnership with the Puerto Rico Public Health Trust, held an event at a San Juan hotel Thursday dubbed “Investing in Health: A New Tool to Improve Health Outcomes in Puerto Rico.” 

Several Puerto Rico health experts participated in the event, touching on topics ranging from chronic diseases to how investing in the social determinants of health can benefit the island’s population.

“Health cannot be taken for granted,” said the Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Public Health Trust, Marianyoly Ortiz. “Although much depends on our lifestyle, it is the people’s social determinants that ultimately impact access to services and their quality of life. We must tackle the path, creating the solutions to achieve health equity in all our communities, and this collaboration, which has united representatives of all sectors, serves that purpose.” 

Speaking at the event, Rosa Díaz, the Puerto Rico Health Department’s Prevention and Control Division evaluator, focused on some of the leading causes of death on the island: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and more recently COVID-19.

“So, as you can see, the leading causes of deaths on the island are related to chronic diseases,” Díaz stressed during her presentation while noting that those ailments have been the leading causes of death in Puerto Rico for more than three decades.

“More than half (58%) of adults on the island live with at least one chronic disease,” Díaz said. “A large part of the population of Puerto Rico is inactive and overweight and obese. They are at risk of developing chronic diseases and/or limiting the management and control of these diseases.”

The health expert emphasized the importance of addressing new public health challenges such as the use of electronic cigarettes, new COVID-19 variants, and health social determinants such as scarce economic resources that directly impact residents’ quality of life.

“Due to the significant burden of chronic noncommunicable diseases in Puerto Rico, it is necessary to implement evidence-based strategies that promote and facilitate the adoption of healthy lifestyles,” she said when concluding her presentation.

For her part, Puerto Rico Public Health Trust Epidemiologist Mariela Alvarado recommended the promotion and strengthening of financial resources for transportation and safe lodging for cervical cancer survivors.

“I want to start with one question. Imagine that when you leave here you are in a video consult and that the doctor prescribes you an adequate home, a home in which you feel safe living in. Well, scientific literature has documented that having a safe structure to live in could influence the health of citizens.”

The epidemiologist underlined that having safe homes, parks to exercise in and food security also influence people’s health. She also pointed out that years after Hurricane Maria struck the island, there are still many homes that, despite having sustained significant damage and losing their roof in 2017, are still only covered by the blue tarps provided by emergency personnel.

“Not only does Puerto Rico need to have adequate homes to be able to face storms and hurricanes and floods, we also need adequate homes to withstand earthquakes,” she stressed.

Among the other speakers at the event were University of Puerto Rico Graduate School of Public Health Prof. Heriberto Marín; Consultiva Wealth Management Corp. Founder Myrna Rivera; and New York Health Foundation visiting fellow Dave Chokshi. Birling Capital Advisors President Francisco Rodríguez-Castro served as moderator.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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