Hispanic communities and families in the United States are facing unprecedented health and wellness disparities as they cope with a crisis of epic political and socio-economic uncertainties.
Whether you’re from Mexico, other Central American countries, South America, or the Caribbean, and live in the United States, affordable health care access and trusted information can be a real issue, resulting in vast disparities in health outcomes.
There are about 56.6 million Hispanics currently living in the United States, totaling nearly 17.6% of the population, according to the latest available numbers from the United States Census Bureau. And by 2050, the Bureau estimates that 1 in 3 people living in the United States will be of Hispanic/Latino origin, and by 2060, there will be 119 million Hispanics in the country, making up 28.6% of the total population.
If you think the current U.S. health care system is troubling, imagine not being able to understand what a doctor is saying, being kicked out of an emergency room due to lack of payment, or being too scared to even go to a hospital because of fear of deportation. Unfortunately, that’s what health care is like for millions of Latinos currently living in the U.S.
A diverse Hispanic community, unique health concerns
A common misconception among non-Hispanics is that all Latinos come from a similar culture. In fact, there are approximately 27 different Latin American countries represented by the almost 60 million people living in this country.
Each immigrant family brings their own unique culture and health concerns, as they are all united by a common language (Spanish) while learning a new one (English). Health risks and diseases, though, can be very different for each of these 27 subgroups.
For example, a family from Mexico is at much higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes than one from Ecuador; while children from Puerto Rico or Dominican Republic are at higher risk for asthma than a child from El Salvador.
Diabetes and Latinos
Diabetes is one of several health conditions which has reached epidemic proportions among Hispanics in the U.S.
Researchers have long known that people of Hispanic background are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes than non-Hispanic Caucasians. However, most research has looked at this group as a whole, rather than as a number of different populations.
In the U.S., 1 out of 6 Latinos has diabetes, but new research reveals Mexican families have a heightened risk compared to South Americans or Cubans.
According to the two studies, and an accompanying commentary published in the August issue of Diabetes Care, Hispanics in the U.S. are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes, but the risk varies considerably depending on specific subgroups and other factors, such as the length of time they have been living in the United States.
Why are diabetes rates so high among Latinos in the U.S.? This could be explained by considering a combination of factors including obesity, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and stress levels.
Often, immigrant families facing socio-economic hardships, live in conditions which promote these factors.
Until our health care system and food suppliers level the playing field to include equal and affordable access to all Hispanics, diabetes will continue to proliferate and create billions of dollars of added costs to a system few can now afford.
Obesity is also a serious problem among Hispanics in the U.S.
Obesity among U.S. Hispanics, especially children, is another epidemic. High obesity rates are directly linked to unhealthy lifestyle issues, including lack of physical activity, nutritional choices high in sugar and full of bad calories and fast food, and eating highly processed foods.
And obesity is a strong risk factor for other diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.
More Hispanics, including children, now suffer from morbid obesity, which means they are at the highest risk of suffering from these serious diseases and having seriously large medical bills to pay.
Mental health is another concern among Latinos
Mental illness is also on the rise as Hispanic families cope with the fears, despair, and stress of daily uncertainties.
Depression, suicide, and chronic anxiety disorders are very prominent in Hispanic communities, but sadly, between cultural taboos and little access to mental health care, many Hispanics must deal with these conditions all by themselves without any support system.
To many, trust in a politicized health care system has completely eroded and is creating a younger generation of Hispanics with mental health conditions.
The current health care system breeds illness instead of promoting wellness
Presently, we really have a financially and politically motivated disease management system pretending to be a health care system.
I am working hard and hoping that someday soon we can achieve reform to our health care so all Latinos can have access to an equal and affordable system.
This can and will be ultimately achieved when we develop and agree on universal health coverage for all.
Meanwhile, understanding the importance of disease prevention and health promotion with an integrative health style will reduce your risk of serious diseases and keep your family in a healthy life balance.
In a time of uncertainty, saludmóvil™ is here to help
As a physician, I am highly concerned about the current Hispanic health disparity, and as the founder of saludmovil.com, it is my personal mission to be a personal and trusted doctor to everyone living in all of the diverse bilingual communities.
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