National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 through October 15) is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the deep-rooted and impactful history, culture and achievements of Hispanic and Latino communities. This year's theme, “Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation”, reminds us that our nation’s diversity is our strength.
As a health network caring for diverse communities across nine U.S. States, AdventHealth also looks at Hispanic Heritage Month through the lens of health equity, as an opportunity to collectively reflect on how we can bridge the healthcare gap and strengthen communities through awareness, education and wholistic care.
This blog highlights research on some of the most common health conditions affecting Hispanic and Latino communities. Being aware of health risks better equips us to identify the early signs of illness and empowers us to seek timely and appropriate care.
Understanding Barriers to Health Care
The vibrant and varied cultures within Hispanic and Latin American communities represent 18.9% of the U.S. total population. According to the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau population estimate, there are currently 62.1 million Hispanic and Latino persons living in the United States – these are persons of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or ancestry.
As we celebrate the diverse and powerful influence of Hispanic and Latino communities on our society and culture, we also recognize opportunities to promote wholeness by better understanding and addressing medical and socioeconomic disparities that affect many of our patients. According to Dr. Alric Simmonds, AdventHealth’s Chief Health Equity Officer, health disparities are preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, or barriers to achieving optimal health.
Some of the social determinants of health (SDOH) affecting our Hispanic and Latino communities include the disproportionate impact of COVID-19, as well as higher than average rates of heart disease and diabetes. Additionally, in the U.S., Hispanic and Latino persons have the highest uninsured rates of any racial or ethnic group. Because of this, many Hispanic and Latino persons are unable to access or afford essential health care, such as: preventative health screenings for liver disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or other preventable conditions. Language barriers and transportation access also contribute to disparate health outcomes.
These realities often influence an individual’s health care experience, including whether they will actively seek necessary care for health challenges. At AdventHealth, we seek to understand the whole picture of every patient’s health to provide the most personalized care possible, including working to remove any obstacles on the path toward better health.
Common Health Conditions Hispanic Americans Face
Chronic Liver Disease
Hispanic and Latino Americans have a higher risk of developing some liver diseases. According to the CDC, one way to keep your liver healthy is eating a balanced diet that includes foods such as lentils, nuts, olives, berries and oatmeal. Liver health can also be improved by exercising regularly, reducing or eliminating alcohol intake, avoiding toxins often found in highly-processed foods and seeing your primary care provider at least once a year for an annual checkup.
Hispanic and Latino Americans have been impacted more by COVID-19 – including experiencing a greater severity of disease and accounting for 41% of COVID-19-related deaths in 2020. Some research attributes these higher rates to the fact that many persons in our Hispanic and Latino communities work essential jobs that can’t be done remotely.
Hispanic and Latino families are also more likely to have multigenerational households, where people who work essential jobs can’t isolate themselves from their family members. This increases the risk for the virus to be transmitted to relatives who may be at higher risk of COVID-19 complications due to their age or underlying health conditions.
The increased risk of diabetes in Hispanic communities is often influenced by genetics since it can be hereditary; but diet can also increase the risk of diabetes since many traditional foods are high in fat and carbohydrates. Eating a well-balanced diet and exercising frequently can help decrease the risk of diabetes, even when genetics is a factor.
High Blood Pressure
Nearly 1 in 4 Hispanic and Latino people have high blood pressure, which can be a precursor to a heart attack, stroke, kidney disease or heart failure. Due to barriers in accessing health care, Hispanic and Latino patients are also more likely to have high blood pressure that is poorly controlled.
Genetics often plays a role in whether a person will develop high blood pressure, but eating a low-salt diet, lessening alcohol consumption and not smoking can reduce blood pressure and help mitigate the risk of heart disease.
We Celebrate Every Patient
AdventHealth is working to eliminate health disparities and to promote individual and community health and wellness. Simmonds, our Chief Health Equity Officer, is leading our clinical team to ensure every person we serve has equal opportunities to lead a healthy life and receive equitable care, regardless of race, ethnicity, language, gender, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. We offer interpreter services to eliminate language barriers when a patient prefers to speak Spanish. We engage our community partners to bring healthcare and education to our patients and community members. And we nurture the Hispanic health care leaders of tomorrow at AdventHealth University.
We celebrate our Hispanic communities and cultures and encourage everyone to be aware of their health risks and to make preventive health care a priority with primary care. At AdventHealth, we empower our team members, patients, and communities to experience wholeness – in body, mind and spirit.