Improving health and education were among the top issues discussed during the 27th Annual Conference of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), which was sponsored by AARP in Denver, June 24-27.
The event, attended by Leo Estrada, a member of the AARP Board of Directors, featured a “town hall” meeting about the state of health care and sessions on the economy, education and advancing healthy and sustainable communities, which was a program hosted by AARP. Speakers during the three-day event included U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, a former Arizona governor; U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter.
Ritter said Colorado has been taking incremental steps to lay the groundwork for the implementation of the new health care law. He pointed to the importance of having a system in place that will not only increase health care coverage for older Coloradans, but will also help keep them healthier longer.
“We have begun expanding the system to be prepared... but we (also) have to focus on wellness,” he said.
The law’s expansion of preventative care will help diagnose disease sooner and keep people healthier in the long term, he added.
AARP Colorado pitched in by welcoming NALEO to Denver with billboards and messages on downtown mall buses.
Attending the NALEO conference were a number of AARP volunteers, including Sylvia Fransua of Pueblo, Colo.; Ruth Sanchez and Sister Alicia Cuaron of Denver; and Polly Baca of Denver, a former Colorado State Senator, who also was honored with the Ohtli Award, presented by the Mexican Government.
“Latinos need to know that their vote counts,” Baca said. “The work that organizations like AARP Colorado do to reach older Hispanics with information about candidates and ballot initiatives is extremely important because voter participation starts with being informed. Once the issues are outlined and people understand how the issues influence their lives, they are more likely to exercise their civic duty.”
AARP Director of Public Outreach Monica Gonzales, George Kelemen, director of Congressional Relations & Political Affairs, both of Washington, D.C., and Angela Cortez, Colorado Associate State Director – Communications also attended the conference.