How healthcare leaders can address health disparities in Hispanic and Latino communities
Hispanic Heritage Month, observed from September 15 to October 15, is a time to honor the rich heritage and contributions of Hispanics and Latinos in the United States; it’s also an opportunity to shed light on the health disparities disproportionately affecting these communities. At Modivcare, our mission is to bring equity, hope, and healing to those who need it most. That's why addressing these disparities among the Hispanic and Latino communities is important to us. We are dedicated to raising awareness about these challenges and highlighting effective strategies that we as healthcare leaders – providers, private health plans, local governments, non-profits, and other healthcare organizations – can do to combat these issues.
Health challenges faced by the Hispanic and Latino communities
Hispanic and Latinos face a range of health issues that are impacted by their social, economic, and cultural factors, referred to as social determinants of health (SDoH). Factors such as language and cultural barriers, and lack of access to preventative care and health insurance often play a role in causing health issues that can significantly impact Hispanic and Latinos overall health. These include:
- Diabetes and liver disease: Hispanics and Latinos are approximately 50% more likely to die from diabetes or liver disease compared to non-Hispanic whites.
- High blood pressure: Compared to non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics are 22% less likely to have controlled high blood pressure.
- Colorectal cancer screening: Hispanic and Latino communities have a colorectal cancer screening rate that is 28% lower than that of non-Hispanic whites.
- Lack of health insurance: Hispanics and Latinos are nearly three times as likely to be uninsured compared to non-Hispanic whites.
- Obesity and childhood obesity: The rate of diagnosed diabetes is 66% higher among Hispanics and Latinos than among non-Hispanic whites. Additionally, Hispanic and Latino children and adolescents have a higher prevalence of obesity compared to their non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic Asian peers.
Strategies to combat health disparities
To effectively reduce health disparities in the Hispanic and Latino communities, it is essential for healthcare providers, state governments, and other healthcare organizations to implement strategies that address social determinants of health that impact an individual’s health and well-being. By engaging community members and empowering them to take charge of their health, we as collective healthcare leaders, can make progress towards a healthier future for the Hispanic and Latino communities. Here are some strategies:
- Increase access to healthy food: Improve access to affordable, nutritious foods. Meal delivery services, a supplemental benefit that can be offered through Medicare Advantage plans, is an optimal way for beneficiaries to receive healthy food. Delivery services also eliminate the transportation barrier that can prevent these communities from accessing healthy food on their own.
- Design walkable communities: Promote the creation of safe and accessible environments that encourage physical activity. Local healthcare non-profits can partner with local governments to help create walking paths around office buildings or worksites, for example, that encourages employees to walk or exercise during lunch breaks.
- Support breastfeeding moms: Only 18 percent of Latino mothers in the U.S. exclusively breastfeed their children, which offers numerous health benefits for both mothers and babies. They are also more likely to supplement formula feeding within the first two days of life than any other group. To help alleviate this, workplaces can demonstrate a positive atmosphere of support to breastfeeding moms, including offering reasonable break times and providing a private, convenient area for expressing breast milk.
- Partner with CDC’s Reach Program: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes the importance of eliminating health disparities with its Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program. When healthcare providers or local healthcare non-profit organizations engage with the REACH program, it can provide ample opportunities to help reduce health disparities by supporting community-driven initiatives and providing resources for improving health outcomes in racial and ethnic minority populations. Recipients of the program work through interventions that address preventable risky behaviors, such as poor nutrition or physical inactivity.
Empowering the Hispanic and Latino communities moving forward
Hispanic Heritage Month serves as a reminder of the contributions and strengths of the Hispanic and Latino communities. It’s also the perfect time to address the health disparities that affect these populations so disproportionately. All of us – as healthcare providers, state governments, and healthcare organizations – have a due diligence to raise awareness, support initiatives, and take action to create a healthier future for our Hispanic and Latino communities.