A Call for Improved Health Care and Environment for Latinx Appalachians

St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Elizabethton
Posted Mar 18, 2022

By The Rev. Dr. Tim Holder and Dr. Rebecca Adkins Fletcher

The Rev. Dr. Timothy Scott Holder, D. Min. and Dr. Rebecca Adkins Fletcher, Ph.D.

Citing Latinx Appalachians as the fastest-growing ethnic demographic in Appalachia, Father Timothy Scott Holder, pastor of a bilingual congregation, St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Elizabethton, and Assistant Professor of Appalachian Studies, Rebecca Adkins Fletcher, East Tennessee State University, urged educators, activists, writers, and leaders from throughout the region at the Appalachian Association Conference at West Virginia University to more adequately address the state of Latinx American health and environment.

“Hispanic American workers and families contribute great time, care, and ability to our communities in Appalachia,” explained Father Holder, “they are builders, farmers, teachers, business leaders, and amazing mothers and fathers.  They are proud, committed, faithful, and strong.  They give us their best. We owe them nothing less.”  A priest and pastor to Hispanic communities in Carter, Johnson, Unicoi, and Washington Counties of South Central Appalachia, Holder expressed, “Let church and society lead in this day to see a bright and promising future for all Appalachians.  We are a diverse, traditional, and beautiful people in these mountains of home.”

Fletcher, an anthropologist, pointed out the relative absence of research, sparse inclusion of Hispanics in the literature and reporting of Appalachian health and environment, the scarcity of news articles and stories, limited medical and journal reporting, and other inequalities faced by growing numbers of Latinx residents in the area.  “We know that Latinx individuals and families are at high risk for disparities in health care. Good health and health care require education, understanding, a desire, and capability to provide all of our citizens with professional and good treatment.”

Both Holder and Fletcher call for greatly increased study, corporate and business development, recruiting and education for health professionals, doctors and nurses from among “talented Latinx American young people who dream of family, career, and generations to come right here in Appalachia,” according to Father Holder.  “A better future for all of us is promised in what we have to say,” according to Holder.

“Churches, civic organizations, governmental and educational institutions, farms, businesses, and builders, to name a few, can join in welcoming our Latinx neighbors,” Fletcher concluded.  “Wonderful events at St. Thomas last summer in Carter and Unicoi Counties brought together religious communities, ETSU departments of Appalachian Studies, Health Sciences, Cultural Affairs, local nonprofits, county health departments, local businesses, and others to provide $100 school gift cards to 150 children and young people, representing over 100 area Latinx families, from 22 communities,” Father Holder exuded.  “Vaccines, health check-ups, food, school supplies, cultural events, and even the area’s first co-ed soccer team recruitment were celebrated,” he ended, “We invite all churches and communities to join us as we welcome and are welcomed by these our neighbors, our children and families.”

The Appalachian Studies Association (ASA) was formed in 1977 whose mission today is to encourage study, advance scholarship, disseminate information, and enhance communication between Appalachian peoples, their communities, governmental organizations, and educational institutions.  The Conference draws hundreds of participants annually. For more information, the public is invited to join at “Tri-Cities Latinx Partnership” which meets 1st Thursdays’ at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Elizabethton.  Also, see how you, your church, organization, and business might participate by contacting stthomaselizabethton@gmail.com.