Family Support Research: Latinos’ Big Healthcare Gaps


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This is part of our Building Support for Latino Families: A Research Review »

Latino Families Lack Access to Healthcare

Due to high costs, Latinos are less likely to participate in insurance or retirement plans, even if offered by their employers.100

fam support prob - health coverage lackAlthough the percentage of Latinos with no health care coverage dropped from 26.2% to 15.1% from 2013 to 2016 under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it is still much higher than the percent drop among uninsured non-Latino white from 14.1% to 6.6% in that same span, according to a report.101

Latinos also continued to perform worse on most measures of access to and utilization of their health care than whites, often due to reasons like citizenship status, language, socioeconomic status, and a lack of awareness of the ACA’s provisions, according to a study.

Even after ACA, some Latino groups saw poorer patterns of delaying care (Cubans, Central Americans, and other Latinos), forgoing care (Mexicans and Cubans), having an ED visit (Cubans, Central Americans, and other Latinos), and visiting a physician (non-Latino whites, Mexicans, Cubans, and Central Americans).102

Latinos and Difficult Health Decisions

Health and medical decisions are highly personal and are influenced by socioeconomic status, level of education, cultural beliefs, and social stigma.19,20

fam support prob - low incomeHowever, physical well-being is closely tied to emotional and financial well-being, and must be a priority in Latino communities. Barriers such as language, illegal status, and unemployment make it difficult for low-income Latinos to access high-quality health care even when they want to.19,21,117

Currently, 27-30% of Latinos report having no usual health care provider, and 15% of Latino children have not had a well-care visit in the past year.36,118

In general, circumstances that make parents uncomfortable obtaining medical care (such as illegal status, language barriers, high cost) result in poor medical care for the family’s children as well.117

When children have poor health care, their academic careers suffer; absenteeism rates increase, and everyday motivation to learn is diminished.118

Low-income minority youth as a group are at high risk for seven “educationally relevant health disparities”: poor vision, asthma, teen pregnancy, aggression and violence, lack of physical activity, lack of breakfast, and untreated inattention and hyperactivity.119 The authors go on to warn that “no educational innovations can succeed if these health disparities are not addressed”.119

In addition, relative to other low-income populations, Latino children are at highest risk for obesity, diabetes, and depression– chronic conditions that benefit from prevention education and long-term continuity of care for best management.20

As a result, finding ways to improve the medical environment for Latino parents is urgently required to ensure proper health care for Latino children.

Where Latinos Get their Health Information

Since a large proportion of the Latino community is not getting its medical information directly from physicians or clinics, it is not surprising that 83% report obtaining some of their health-related information from media sources (television, radio, newspapers, magazines, or the internet) and that 70% list family, friends, churches, or community groups as their main sources of health information.36

Interestingly, a significant share of Latino adults who report having no primary care physician are US-born (30%), have a high school diploma (50%), speak English (52%), and have health insurance (45%), suggesting that there are unique social and cultural factors that dissuade Latinos from seeking general health care.36

Policymakers should thus seek to disseminate health information using the predominant outlets accessed by the Latino community, including media and community groups.

Furthermore, policymakers should also attempt to change the conversation of health care within Latino communities from “sick care” to “well care.”

Messages regarding healthy diets, nutritional guidelines, physical activity, and the importance of diabetes management should be relatively amenable to dissemination via media outlets and word of mouth; in the same study cited above, 64% of Latinos said that the health information they obtained from the media led them to change their diet or exercise regimens.36

However, effective education regarding mental health conditions and treatment, as well as specialty care, may require interaction with nurses and physicians.

More from our Building Support for Latino Families: A Research Review »

References for this section »

19. Aguilar-Gaxiola, S., Loera, G. & Mendez, I. Community-Defined Solutions For Latino Mental Health Care Disparities. (California reducing disparities project, Latino strategic planning workgroup population report, 2012).

20. Livingston, G., Minushkin, S. & Cohn, D. Hispanics and Health Care in the United States: Access, information and knowledge. (Pew Hispanic Center and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2008).

36. Murphey, D., Guzman, L. & Torres, A. America’s Hispanic children: Gaining ground, looking forward. (Child Trends, 2014).

101. Warren, M. Getting America Covered Tracking Gains in Health Insurance Coverage, 2013-2016. Enroll America (2017). Available at: (Accessed: 2nd October 2017)

102. Alcalá, H. E., Chen, J., Langellier, B. A., Roby, D. H. & Ortega, A. N. Impact of the Affordable Care Act on Health Care Access and Utilization Among Latinos. J. Am. Board Fam. Med. 30, 52–62 (2017).

117. Castañeda, H. & Melo, M. A. Health care access for Latino mixed-status families: Barriers, strategies, and implications for reform. Am. Behav. Sci. 58, 1891–1909 (2014).

118. Child Trends Databank. Well-Child Visits: Indicators of Child and Youth Well-Being. (Child Trends, 2017).

119. Basch, C. E. Healthier Students Are Better Learners: A Missing Link in School Reforms to Close the Achievement Gap. Equity Matters. Research Review No. 6. Campaign Educ. Equity Teach. Coll. Columbia Univ. (2010).

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