Study: A Lack of Physician-Parent Communication & Language Barriers May Contribute to Obesity in Latino Kids


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According to a recent study conducted out of  UT Southwestern Medical Center as many as 1 out of every 5 parents of Latino children were not informed that their child was overweight due to barriers in patient-physician communication, such as language.

“During primary care visits with overweight children in which there is a language barrier, it is incredibly important to provide a trained medical interpreter or bilingual provider, and use a growth chart to communicate that the child is overweight,” said lead investigator, Dr. Christy Turer, in a news release from the UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Turner’s research team found that out of 26 Latino children between the ages of 6 and 12 years old, 81% were classified as obese and 19% were overweight. Due to language barriers, it was often difficult for physicians to inform parents of the dangers of their child’s weight status and provide advice on weight management and diet.

In order to help tackle high obesity rates among Latinos with limited English proficiency, Turer recommends that physicians explore various communication strategies such as learning basic healthcare related words and phrases. Physicians can also provide patients with culturally relevant materials in a language that they can understand. Rather than using terms such as fat, obese, or heavy, Turer recommends that physicians explain to parents that this is “too much weight for his health.”

Read more about this study here. Read the full study in the November issue of Pediatrics.

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