Doctor Dialogue | Healthy Living

Hispanic Health: Differences and Similarities Amongst Latinos

Without access to proper disease prevention and health promoting health care, we will see a decline in future health for all Latinos, as new generation’s take on harmful lifestyle habits, particularly nutritional. This could catalyze epidemic rates of diabetes and obesity in these communities.

One of every six Americans are Latinos but despite sharing the same language we hail from diverse ancestry, cultures, and socio-economic status . This means there are very significant differences in diseases and health outcomes among hispanics.

According to a comprehensive study of this Latino health diversity throughout the country by the National Institutes of Health, diabetes, pre-diabetes and obesity are the prominent health issues all of the Latino communities studied share. This very important study began in 2008 and included over 16,400 patients, ages 17-65.

Common Health Conditions Among Various Hispanic Sub Groups

Although diabetes and obesity were key common health issues amongst all Latinos, when other diseases such as asthma and hypertension were studied, obvious and alarming disparities were found. Puerto Rican Latinos suffer far greater rates of asthma than Mexicans while Cubans experience greater rates of hypertension. This study also included differences in lifestyle habits amongst Latinos finding that Cubans consumed greater amounts of fruits and veggies while Latino woman as a group used less salt in their foods when compared to Latino men.

The Lack of Insurance and Being able to Afford Healthcare

The findings in this study are in line with my 30 years of treating Latino patients from the entire globe, including the Caribbean along with Central and South America.  A huge concern for me in this study is how half of the Latinos with diabetes were not properly treated and controlled with their disease. Is this due to lack of access to good care or poor compliance? In my experience, most Latino patients, especially the women, are very compliant with their diabetic care but many lack the Insurance and financial resources to cope with the rising costs of medications, monitoring, and exams.

Why Hispanics Tend to Live Longer Lives Than Non-Hispanic White Americans

Despite suffering through these issues and alarming rates of obesity, prediabetes and diabetes, Hispanics in America presently live longer lives than non-Hispanic white Americans (known as the “Hispanic Paradox”). In addition to the challenges Latinos face with these health issues they, as a total group, generally lack adequate medical insurance coverage and suffer huge communication gaps within our present U.S. healthcare system. As an example I see every day, many Latinos are eligible for health insurance under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, yet many still have failed to sign up expressing confusion and lack of understanding with the process. Without access to proper disease prevention and health promoting health care my concern is declining future health outcomes for all Latinos as new generation’s take on harmful lifestyle habits, particularly nutritional, which may create epidemic rates of diabetes and obesity in these communities.

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