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Jul 31, 2014

Reducing Health Disparities in Hispanics and Latinos

Hispanics in the U.S. face dramatic health disparities, according to a recently-released statement.

Hispanics continue to face dramatic health disparities compared to whites, according to a statement recently released by the American Heart Association. 

Designed to provide recommendations for reducing health disparities, this statement was written by medical experts with experience related to heart disease in Hispanic individuals.

By reviewing the latest research and evidence, the authors of the statement were able to summarize what we know about heart health among Hispanics and offer ways to reduce health disparities among this population in the United States. 

Here is what experts shared in their latest scientific statement:
 

  • Hispanics, defined as individuals with origins in Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, South America or other Spanish-speaking countries, represent the fastest growing racial or ethnic population in the United States. More than 53 million Hispanics currently live in the United States, representing 17% of the total U.S. population.

  • Hispanics face significant socioeconomic challenges that put them at increased risk for heart disease. Hispanics are significantly less likely to graduate from high school compared to whites and have the lowest earnings among all races and ethnicities in the United States. Also, Hispanics are nearly three times more likely to lack health insurance compared to white adults. All of these differences increase risk for heart disease and other chronic diseases among Hispanics compared to whites. However, the strong sense of family and support among Hispanics may help improve health-related outcomes.
     
  • Hispanics face many types of stress related to discrimination, navigating the U.S. health care system, and adjusting to the U.S. culture. These high levels of stress may contribute to increased risk for heart disease among Hispanics.
     
  • Compared to other races and ethnicities, Hispanics are less aware that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. They are also less likely to know if they have certain risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Increasing heart disease awareness is an important step to addressing health disparities among Hispanics.
     
  • Hispanics have higher rates of cardiovascular risk factors, such as high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity, compared to whites. Hispanics are also less physically active than white adults. Unfortunately, Hispanics are less likely to seek treatment and address these risk factors for heart disease.

  • Like the rest of the U.S. population, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of Hispanic adults. In addition to conducting research to better understand the impact of heart disease among Hispanics, education, prevention, and treatment are key to eliminating health disparities in this high-risk population.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What are health disparities?
  • Health disparities refer to differences in health outcomes or burdens of disease between groups of people. Health disparities can exist between different populations of race, sex, income, or even geographic location. In health care, the goal is to eliminate these differences so all individuals have the same ability to achieve good health.

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