Vince is a technical writer working in the medical research field. He also enjoys exploring literature in his free time.
Health Disparities in America's Hispanic Population
America’s Hispanic population faces a number of serious health threats due to economic disparity and educational barriers. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (2013), as many as 40.1 percent of Hispanic Americans did not complete high school as of 2009.
Although this number is gradually decreasing, the Hispanic community still has a large educational discrepancy when compared with other ethnicities. Work done to correct the barriers facing the Hispanic population must be multifaceted and address concerns on a practical as well as cultural level.
According to the CDC (2013), approximately 12.2 percent of the Hispanic population had diabetes in 2010, compared to 8 percent of the overall population. The condition is worse in males affecting 15.4 percent of Hispanic men as compared to 9.5 percent of women. Furthermore, rates of the condition are on the rise, as can be seen by comparison to 2006 data in which 8.6 percent of the Hispanic population had diabetes. Additionally, Hispanic children have higher rates of diabetes and obesity than the national average (De Heer, Koehly, Pederson, Morera, 2011).
Diabetes and obesity are the major negative effects of health disparity for the Hispanic population. The demographic has better rates than the national average for smoking and motor vehicle accident. As a result of obesity, the Hispanic population also has a higher rate of heart-related illnesses but does not have the highest rate of all the ethnic groups. These rates seem to indicate a trend, and given the causes of diabetes, this trend would be one drawing the Hispanic population away from preventative health care and education on the matter. (CDC, 2013).
Barriers to Health
A number of disparities exist that affect the overall health of the Hispanic population. These disparities in health vary from economic to cultural and are the result of natural barriers and of active discrimination. These various hindrances reflect the need for a multifaceted approach to providing better health care and improving the overall health status of the Hispanic population.
The CDC (2013) lists the Hispanic demographic as having a poverty rate of 14.5 percent. This is the second-highest of any of the ethnic groups analyzed. According to Page-Reeves et al. (2013), this economic hardship places many Hispanic families in situations where they need to weigh their healthcare costs against the costs of daily needs. Many individuals choose to delay medical visits in favor of paying rent and buying groceries. This causes a lack of preventative medical interventions and education, which raises the rates of diabetes among Hispanic people.
Page-Reeves et al. (2013) identifies language barriers as a major deterrent for much of the Hispanic population in seeking medical care. The members of the Hispanic community who do not speak English often feel discouraged from seeking medical help since they do not feel they are welcome in doctors’ offices. Those who do speak English report feeling discriminated against or condescended to due to their accents. This language barrier causes many Hispanic individuals to only seek medical attention when absolutely necessary and not to engage in preventative care.
It can be inferred from the combined economic and cultural barriers that members of the Hispanic community are often deprived of early intervention and educational advantages to which other ethnic groups in the United States have access. The inability to speak or easily understand English causes many not to be able to participate in health education programs. Furthermore, the overall avoidance shown by the Hispanic population to health care creates a barrier early on in which children grow up unaware of certain health concerns.
Health promotion would be defined by the Hispanic population as the dissemination of educational materials aimed at improving access to preventative health care. De Heer et al. (2011) describe an experiment in which they demonstrated improved weight loss and exercise in Hispanic children who had merely been in contact with other children who had attended a health education class. The draw for improvement exists, but overcoming the barriers is necessary to effect change.
As diabetes is the foremost health concern and affects such a large percentage of the Hispanic population, educational material in Spanish specific to the causes of diabetes would be an effective measure for raising awareness. This would overcome the language and educational barriers. Since much of the care for pre-diabetic patients is work they do on their own, the factor of income will play a smaller role.
The approach would have the primary goal of reducing risk by promoting a better diet and exercise in adults and youth. The secondary goal is to directly address the already existing impact of the disease and attempt to treat it, which would also involve improvement of diet and exercise. The educational materials can include low-impact activities that can be done by overweight people. Finally, tertiary management of the condition is necessary. Diabetes screenings by Spanish-speaking medical professionals available to the public along with the educational material would provide tertiary prevention and help soften the impact of the disease in the community by recognizing it before it becomes a larger health concern.
The outlined plan is admittedly still affected by income as access to better foods and exercise equipment is restricted by budget. However, portion control can help in this regard, and this method of intervention does not involve medical bills. Though there are still limitations, a prevention program for diabetes that is entirely in Spanish and involves free materials would be the best way to address the various barriers to health affecting the Hispanic population.
Centers for Disease Control. (2013, November 21). MMWR Supplements: Past Volume (2013). Retrieved April 10, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/ind2013_su.html#HealthDisparities2013.
De Heer, H., Koehly, L., Pederson, R., & Morera, O. (2011). Effectiveness and Spillover of an After-School Health Promotion Program for Hispanic Elementary School Children. American Journal of Public Health, 101(10), 1907-1913.
Page-Reeves, J., Niforatos, J., Mishra, S., Regino, L., Gingrich, A., & Bulten, J. (2013). Health Disparity and Structural Violence: How Fear Undermines Health Among Immigrants at Risk for Diabetes. Journal of Health Disparities Research and Practice, 6(2), 30-48.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.