hispanic medical studentsHispanics are loosely defined as people of Spanish-speaking origin from Latin America, the Caribbean, or Europe, a definition that covers a widely diverse group of people, regarding socioeconomic status, race, origin, migration experiences, nativity, and U.S. citizenship status. The common description for Hispanic includes foreign-born recent immigrants to the country as well as families that have been living in the country for generations. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) defines Hispanic or Latino as “a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.”

Hispanic health is usually affected by a wide range of issues like language and cultural barriers, difficult access to preventive care, and deficiency of health insurance. Among the leading causes of sickness and death in Hispanics are heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries (accidents), stroke, and diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other health issues and risk factors that expressively occur in Hispanics are: asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, HIV/AIDS, obesity, suicide, and liver disease.

Leading Causes of Death For Hispanics

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention compiled a list of the top ten causes of death in Hispanics, with cancer as the number-one cause, followed by heart disease, unintentional injuries, stroke and diabetes. The remaining causes were chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, chronic lower respiratory diseases, influenza and pneumonia, homicide, and in 10th place, nephritis, nephrotic syndrome & nephrosis. Other important health conditions, besides asthma, HIV/AIDS and obesity, are Chagas disease, teen pregnancy, smoking tobacco, and infant mortality.

In Texas, some research into disease and Hispanic health is being conducted. For example, the occurrence of breast cancer among Latin women is being studied at UMC Breast Cancer Center, with funding provided by the National Institutes of Health. With the South Texas population being mostly Hispanic, the Cancer Therapy & Research Center in San Antonio has also announced that it will devote significant amount of their preventive, outreach, and research strategies to diseases that have a greater tendency to affect Hispanics.


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Specific Issues In Hispanic health

Studies have shown that high rates of obesity are more common in Hispanics than non-Hispanic Caucasians. Disparities are also observed among Hispanic subgroups, such as the rate of low birth weight, which is lower for the total Hispanic population in comparison to non-Hispanic Caucasians, yet Puerto Ricans present a rate that is 60 percent higher than the rate of low birth weight for non-Hispanic Caucasians. Another health particularity among Hispanics is that Puerto Ricans suffer disproportionately from asthma, HIV/AIDS and infant mortality, while Mexican-Americans have diabetes excessively.

Disparities in Hispanic health

The CDC Health Disparities & Inequalities Report (CHDIR), released in the United States in 2011, points out more health disparities among Hispanics, such as:

  • Housing: Next to Non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics and American Indians/Alaska Natives had the highest percentages of householders living in inadequate, unhealthy housing.
  • Insurance: Hispanics had substantially higher uninsured rates, compared with Asian/Pacific Islanders and non-Hispanic whites.
  • Vaccination: Lower influenza vaccination coverage was observed for Hispanics, compared with non-Hispanic whites, among all persons aged > 6 months during the 2009-10 influenza season.
  • Obesity: Among males aged ≤20 years, the prevalence of obesity was highest among Mexican-Americans, as compared to non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks.
  • Hospitalization: During 2004-2007, the rate of preventable hospitalizations was higher among Hispanics, compared with non-Hispanic whites.
  • HIV: Hispanics continued to experience a disproportionate level of HIV diagnoses.
  • Teen pregnancy: In 2008, the birth rate for Hispanic adolescents was approximately 5 times the rate for Asian/Pacific Islander adolescents, 3 times the rate for non-Hispanic white adolescents, and somewhat higher than the rates for non-Hispanic black and American Indian/Alaska Native adolescents.