Health Risks and Disparities Experienced by Hispanic
Factors that Contribute to Health Disparities
The causes of the health disparities experienced by Hispanics are complex
and include the following factors:
Poverty. In 2004, 29% of Hispanic children
under 18 were living in poverty compared with 10% of non-Hispanic white
Educational inequalities. In 2005, the
percentage of 16- to 24-year-olds who were high school dropouts was
higher among Hispanics (22%) than among blacks (10%), whites (6%), and
Asian/Pacific Islanders (3%).2 Hispanics are more likely than
non-Hispanic white students to attend large public high schools that
have greater concentrations of low-income students, less funding,3
higher student-to-teacher ratios,4 greater turnover of
teachers,4 and less qualified and less experienced teachers.4-6
Environmental threats. Low income and ethnic
minorities living in high poverty neighborhoods are at greater than
average risk for exposure to environmental toxins, poor air quality, and
other hazards, as well as limited access to adequate parks and
recreational facilities, transportation services, grocery stores, and
Access to health care. Hispanic children,
compared with non-Hispanic white children, are more likely to be
uninsured,8 less likely to have a usual source of health
care,8 less likely to have had a health care visit in the
past year,9 and less likely to have had a preventive dental
care visit in the past year.9 Compared with non-Hispanic
white adolescents, Hispanic adolescents reporting emotional, behavioral,
or concentration problems are less likely to have access to needed
mental health care services.9
Acculturation and language barriers.
Adaptation to U.S. culture (acculturation) defined by factors such as
language and length of time in the United States, has been positively
associated with increased rates of obesity, substance abuse, and other
indicators of poor physical and mental health.10-15 Studies
have revealed that after arriving in the United States, the health
status of Hispanic immigrants tends to decline.15-16 This
decline may be associated with the fear of deportation (especially among
undocumented immigrants) and language barriers, which have been shown to
prevent Hispanics from seeking health care and information.15-16
U.S. Bureau of the Census. Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance
Coverage in the U.S.: 2004. Report P60, no. 229, Table B-2. Available at
www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf [pdf 3.64M]. Accessed on
March 3, 2008.
National Center for Educational Statistics: Status and Trends in the
Education of Racial and Ethnic Minorities. Available at
www.nces.ed.gov/pubs2007/minoritytrends/ind_4_17.asp. Accessed on
October 29, 2007.
Iton A. (2006). Tackling the root causes of health disparities through
community capacity building (Chapter 7) in Richard Hofreichter ed.
Tackling health inequities through public health practice: a handbook
for action. Washington, DC: The National Association of County and City
Health Officials. Pp.115-136. Available at
www.naccho.org/pubs/product1.cfm?Product_ID=11*. Accessed on
February 23, 2007.
Barton PE. (2003). Parsing the achievement gap. Princeton, NJ: Education
Acevedo-Garcia D, McArdle N, Osypuk T, Lefkowitz B, Krimgold B. (2007)
Children left behind: how metropolitan areas are failing America’s
children. Center for the Advancement of Health, Harvard School of Public
Health. January. Available at http://diversitydata.sph.harvard.edu/children_left_behind_final_report.pdf.
Accessed on March 7, 2008.
Poliakoff AR (2006). Closing the gap: An overview. INFOBRIEF. (January
2006) No. 44 Alexandria VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Development 1-6; 2006.
Hood E. Dwelling disparities: How poor housing leads to poor health.
Environ Health Perspect 2005;113(5): 310-317.
Children’s Defense Fund. Improving children’s health: Understanding
children’s health disparities and promising approaches to address them.
Washington, DC; 2006.
The Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative. Data Resource
Center for Child and Adolescent Health. 2003-2004 National Survey of
Children’s Health. Child Health Measures. Available at
www.nschdata.org*. Accessed on May
Abraído-Lanza A, Armbrister A, Flórez K, Aguirre A. Toward a
theory-driven model of acculturation in public health research. Am J of
Public Health. 2006;96(8): 1342-1346.
Vega W, Amaro H. Latino outlook: good health, uncertain prognosis. Annu
Rev Public Health. 1994;(15): 39-67.
Kaplan M, Huguet N, Newsom, J, McFarland B. The association between
length of residence and obesity among Hispanic immigrants. Am J Prev
Med. 2004;27(4): 323-326.
Himmelgreen D, Pérez-Escamilla R, Martinez D, Bretnall A, Eells B, Peng
Y, Bermúdez A. The longer you stay, the bigger you get: length of time
and language use in the U.S. are associated with obesity in Puerto Rican
women. Am J Phys Anthropol. 2004;(125): 90-96.
Mainous A, Diaz V, Geesey M. Acculturation and healthy lifestyle among
Latinos with Diabetes. Ann Fam Med. 2008;(6): 131-137.
Morales L, Lara M, Kington R, Valdez R, Escarce J. Socioeconomic,
cultural, and behavioral factors affecting Hispanic health outcomes. J
Health Care Poor Underserved. 2002;13(4): 477-503.
Garcés I, Scarinci I, Harrison L. An examination of sociocultural
factors associated with health and health care seeking among Latina
immigrants. J Immigr Health 2006;(8): 377-385.
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