Entrepreneurs and investors are missing a big opportunity concerning Hispanics and their health.
A recent survey of AngelList counted 89,405 U.S.-based startups. Out of these startups, only 15 target Hispanics and only one, Consejo Sano, focuses on healthcare services for Hispanics.
Meanwhile, the Hispanic population in the US reached a new high of 55.4 million in 2014 and is expected to grow to 30% of the total US populate by 2050. Collectively, it represents the 15th largest consumer economy in the world with over $1 trillion in buying power. However, fewer than 4 percent of healthcare providers speak Spanish, and many are not attuned to the population’s cultural and economic diversity.
Our healthcare problems are huge. According to the Harvard Business Review $1 trillion in health care spending is wasteful. Medical debt is the largest cause of personal bankruptcy. Fifty million Americans do not take their prescription medication as prescribed. Our problems worsen across racial and socioeconomic lines – disparities in healthcare are estimated to cost us $309 billion annually.
When assessing the health of Hispanics in the U.S., the numbers are especially troubling. 77% percent of Hispanic adults are overweight or obese. 13% of Hispanic adults have diabetes – close to two times the national average. Hispanics make up over 30% of the current uninsured population.
Access is at the heart of the issue. According to a recent National Healthcare Disparities Report, low-income populations, Hispanics and African-Americans Hispanics typically receive lower quality care and have greater difficulties gaining access to the care they needed.
Despite the enormity of the problem and its wide-reaching implications, the tech and venture community has been notably slow to respond with solutions.
Similarly, venture financing for innovations in digital health surpassed $4.1 billion last year, yet funding for businesses targeting Hispanics and underserved communities has been relatively non-existent (last week Vital Healthcare Capital announced a $30M fund to help providers in underserved communities upgrade health services).
When I ask investor and entrepreneur friends and colleagues to explain this dearth of focus and investment, responses typically point to low return profiles and lack of sustainable business models. Yet, notable companies have repeatedly demonstrated success while targeting underserved communities.
Molina Healthcare is a publicly traded company whose stated mission is to “provide quality health services to financially vulnerable families and individuals covered by government programs.” Following their mission, the company nearly tripled its third-quarter earnings this year, when compared with the same point last year.
Navarro Discount Pharmacy, the U.S.’s largest Hispanic-owned chain of drugstores, caters to diverse communities and grew to over $350 million in annual sales before being acquired by giant CVS Caremark late last year.
Iora Health has found success placing additional focus on preventative care for all communities. Iora partnered with Grameen America to launch an affordable health care program for low-income Hispanic immigrant women entrepreneurs in New York City.
They have a similar Hispanic-focused mission at their practice in Arizona, and are expanding to other locations as well. Both programs will help Iora win the loyalty of the growing yet untapped Hispanic customer base. Earlier this year the company raised $28M ($48M raised in total) to double the number of its practices it operates.
There is plenty of opportunity to go around. The issues with our healthcare system — especially as they pertain to the underserved — are too big for any one accelerator, startup, or entrepreneur to solve alone.
The technology industry’s innovators, entrepreneurs and investors need to take a deep look at the potential presented across the Hispanic community and more broadly in underserved and diverse populations that are too often ignored.
Imagine the potential — both to build successful companies and to make our healthcare system more equitable, efficient and accessible for all.
Now, that’s a big opportunity.
Featured Image: Shawn Campbell/Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE