Hispanics continue to face rising rates of chronic disease

This month, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) released a report entitled “An Inside Look at Chronic Disease and Health Care Among Hispanics in…
Hispanics continue to face rising rates of chronic disease

Hispanics continue to face treatment barriers and rising rates of chronic disease. (Shutterstock)

This month, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) released a report entitled “An Inside Look at Chronic Disease and Health Care Among Hispanics in the United States,” a comprehensive look at disease trends within the Hispanic community.

SEE ALSO: Half of all Americans have at least one chronic disease

While it has long been known that Hispanics and other minorities face disparities when it comes to health and medical care, the NCLR report takes a close look at just what has been going on for this growing demographic.

“The health of the United States is closely tied to that of Hispanic Americans,” states the organization. “Approximately 50.6 million people now identify themselves as Hispanic American, and by 2060 that number is expected to double to almost one-third of the U.S. population. As the Latino community grows, so will the prevalence of chronic conditions that Hispanics face, such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, obesity, and related complications. Addressing chronic diseases among Hispanics is imperative to improving the nation’s health and maximizing its resources.”

NCLR designed the Hispanic Health and Chronic Disease Survey as a means to gather information about the rates of chronic disease among Hispanic health center users, their barriers to- and motivators of- chronic disease prevention and management. The report also looks at the roles of health care providers and community resources in helping Hispanics manage their conditions.

Some of the findings of the report come as no surprise; while access to health care is a huge hurdle, even among Hispanics with health insurance, multiple barriers to manage diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and asthma, continue to exist. Primary hurdles, regardless of insurance status, include transportation to and from health centers, language barriers, cultural issues, and feelings of discrimination.

Other findings included:

  • Sixty percent of Hispanics who responded were told by a doctor that they have a chronic disease.
  • Of those surveyed, 25 percent had visited a hospital emergency room for a chronic related disease in the last 12 months.
  • About 75 percent of survey respondents were either overweight or obese.
  • Three of the four major conditions experienced by respondents—hypertension, diabetes, and arthritis-related conditions—are affected by weight.
  • Approximately one-third of respondents reported difficulty in getting health information in Spanish, the preferred language among 74 percent of those surveyed.
  • Fear of immigration consequences was one of the most common factors cited as why health care was avoided.
  • Diabetes is the leading chronic disease among Hispanics.
  • More than 50 percent of Hispanics that were obese felt their health was “good.”

“The participants of the survey are accessing health care but to manage a chronic disease is a complicated or complex problem that needs more than 15 minutes of interaction with a provider,” said Manuela McDonough  at the National Council of La Raza, to the Los Angeles Daily News. “Our affiliates are doing the best job they can. But they are understaffed and underfunded and can’t meet the demands of this growing population.”

The experts indicate that even with the Affordable Care Act making health insurance more accessible, there will be no benefit seen if Hispanics can’t get to or refuse to go see a medical provider. The real benefit isn’t in access to care alone, but in access to culturally relevant care.

SEE ALSO: Why culturally relevant care is key to improving Latino health

Among the recommendations in the NCLR report is the increase use of promotoras, health care workers who take an active role in the Hispanic community, setting up appointments, providing transportation and guiding Hispanics through the complicated health care system.

Promotoras are considered by NCLR to be one of the best means of helping Hispanics treat chronic disease issues.

This recommendation, as well as the contents of the report, will be further discussed at the National Council of La Raza’s annual conference this month in Los Angeles.