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Health Promotion Among Hispanic-Latino Population

Introduction

The Hispanic/Latino population is one of the multiple minority groups living in the United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau population estimate, there were 59,6 million Hispanic or Latino individuals in 2018, making them the second-largest ethnic group in the country (U.S. Census Bureau, 2018). This paper aims to review the health status of the Hispanic/Latino population and discuss the best health promotion methods for this segment.

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Health Status of Hispanic/Latino Americans

When describing the health status of Hispanic/Latino Americans, it is crucial to mention that this group is heterogeneous. It includes any person of Cuban, Dominican, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race (Conomos et al., 2016). This factor has started to be acknowledged by researchers quite recently. However, despite the group’s diversity, the Hispanic/Latino minority is still mostly studied as an entity.

The group has quite a high life expectancy among all the population segments. In 2017, the life expectancy for Hispanic/Latinos was 82.2 years, with 84.5 years for women and 79.8 years for men (U.S. Census Bureau, 2018). However, regardless of the high life expectancy, there are definite health risks among the group’s representatives. The leading causes of illness and death among Hispanic-Latinos are heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, HIV/AIDS, and liver disease (Centers for Disease and Control Prevention, 2019). Due to their diet and lifestyle, they have higher rates of unintentional injuries, suicides, and obesity than non-Hispanic Whites (Office of Minority Health, 2019).

Health Disparities and Nutritional Challenges for Hispanic/Latinos

Hispanic/Latinos encounter many health disparities and nutritional challenges. While representatives of this group have fewer deaths from heart disease and cancer than non-Hispanic Whites, the Hispanic/Latino population has a 50% higher death rate from diabetes and liver disease (Centers for Disease and Control Prevention, 2015). The additional problem is obesity: according to recent research, nearly 25 percent of Hispanic/Latino children of 6-11 years old are obese compared with 13,6 percent of non-Hispanic Whites (Arandia et al., 2018).

The traditional Hispanic/Latino diet differs depending on people’s ancestry and origin. While featuring specific ingredients and products, they are typically high in fiber, fruits, and vegetables (Castellanos, 2016). However, as suggested by different researchers, U.S. dietary habits have influenced minorities’ dietary patterns (Arandia et al., 2018). Nowadays, Hispanic/Latinos eat more processed foods and refined sugar, drink alcohol and smoke. Moreover, compared to all other ethnic groups, the Hispanic population shows the highest consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (Castellanos, 2016).

Barriers to Health for Hispanic/Latino Americans

The state of Hispanic/Latinos’ health as a group is affected by economic and social factors. One of them is the lack of insurance coverage. In 2018 it was reported that Hispanics have the highest rate of uninsured population: 18 percent of the Hispanic/Latino population was not covered by health insurance, as compared to 5,4% of the non-Hispanic Whites (Berchick, Barnett, & Upton, 2019).

Another barrier closely connected to the insurance factor is low income. Hispanic/Latinos have the second-lowest income among other groups: in 2018, the median household income among Hispanics was 51,450$ compared to 70,462$ among non-Hispanic Whites (Semega, Kollar, Creamer, & Mohanty, 2019). Moreover, 17,6% of Hispanic/Latinos live below the poverty line (Semega, Kollar, Creamer, & Mohanty, 2019). Both of these factors influence the quality of life and health care habits of Hispanics/Latinos.

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The third issue is the low educational level of Hispanic/Latino Americans. Among ethnic groups, the Hispanic population has the highest number of non-high school graduates (35%) and the lowest number of people (14,5%) who have a bachelor’s degree or higher (Castellanos, 2016). Additionally, 29,8 percent of Hispanics state that they are not fluent in English (Office of Minority Health, 2019) and show the lowest health literacy rates in the United States (Showstack, Guzman, Chesser, & Woods, 2019).

Health Promotion Activities Practiced by Hispanic/Latino Americans

Nowadays, the health promotion activities practiced by the Hispanic/Latino minority are offered by the official health care institutions. Moreover, there are special programs for vulnerable populations in different areas of the USA and various initiatives targeted at tackling specific Hispanic/Latino health problems.

One example is Juntos por la Salud (JPLS) that focuses on health promotion and disease prevention services in eleven metropolitan cities. Between February 2016 and December 2018, JPLS mobile health units treated 86830 people and provided 498729 services (Gomez et al., 2019). Another example is a project called L.A. Sprouts, a 12-week intervention on dietary intake. This workshop addressed the issue of obesity among the Hispanic/Latino youth in Los Angeles and showed significant results (Gatto, Martinez, Spruijt-Metz, & Davis, 2017). However, these and other projects have a limited period and local character, which cannot make the desired impact for the largest minority population group of the United States.

Three Levels of Health Promotion Prevention

In choosing the health promotion approach for the Hispanic/Latino minority, it is vital to address specific health issues that are characteristic of this group. Moreover, it is crucial to take into account the existing barriers affecting their health and acknowledge the necessity of a comprehensive approach. Therefore, it is important to develop an efficient care plan that would incorporate three levels of prevention and involve professionals able to communicate with patients successfully.

Primary prevention for Hispanic/Latino Americans should include extensive educational programs on nutrition, mental health, HIV/AIDS prevention, smoking, and alcoholism. These programs would reduce the risk of suicide, obesity, diabetes, pulmonary, heart, and liver diseases. Moreover, it would contribute to improving health literacy rates and changing people’s dietary habits.

It would be necessary to provide people with information on the importance of preventive screenings and their availability at the secondary level. This could be done through community centers where community health workers could “educate and link people to free or low-cost services” (Centers for Disease and Control Prevention, 2015). These measures could lead to higher chances of detecting pregnancy complications, cancer, diabetes at early stages, and provide patients with timely treatment.

Finally, at the tertiary level of prevention, authorities should concentrate on working with patients already affected by chronic diseases. It can be done by organizing cardiac rehabilitation programs, diabetes management programs, and support groups for individuals with obesity, alcoholism, and other problems. These arrangements will help people to manage their health issues and improve their quality of life.

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Cultural Considerations for Hispanic/Latino Minority

The final issue that needs to be acknowledged is the cultural beliefs and practices of the Hispanic/Latino group. Researchers single out five specific traits in the Hispanic culture that affect attitudes to health and health care: machismo, folk illness, familism, fatalism, and “personalismo” (Castellanos, 2016). These factors should be taken into account when providing people with health care and offering prevention programs

Machismo and familism create situations when males of the household usually make all decisions about diet and health issues. A strong belief that illnesses are caused by supernatural powers and can be cured only by healers prevents patients from seeking professional help. Moreover, representatives of this group can be reluctant to get treatment because of fatalism, thinking that there is no personal control over life. Finally, health advisers and doctors need to acknowledge the culture of personalismo that their Hispanic/Latino patients embrace. It means that they would respond better to human and personal contact and conversations than entirely professional counseling.

Conclusion

The present paper discussed the Hispanic/Latino minority’s health issues and ways of addressing them. Health promotion should be done by educating and helping people get affordable and convenient health care provided by trained professionals sensitive to their patients’ cultural context and status. These measures will potentially improve the health of the Hispanic/Latino population and significantly decrease the existing disparities.

References

Arandia, G., Sotres-Alvarez, D., Siega-Riz, A., Arredondo, E.M., Carnethon, M.R., Delamater, A.M., … Perreira, K.M. (2018). Associations between acculturation, ethnic identity, and diet quality among U.S. Hispanic/Latino youth: findings from the HCHS/SOL youth study. Appetite, 129(1), 25-36.

Berchick, E.R., Barnett, J.C., & Upton, R.D. (2019). Health insurance coverage in the United States. 

Castellanos, D.K.C. (2016). Nutritional considerations for Hispanics. In J.M. Rippe (ed.), Nutrition in lifestyle medicine (pp. 329-355). Humana Press.

Centers for Disease and Control Prevention. (2015). Hispanic health. 

Conomos, M. P., Laurie, C. A., Stilp, A. M., Gogarten, S. M., McHugh, C. P., Nelson, S. C.,… Young, K. L. (2016). Genetic diversity and association studies in U.S. Hispanic/Latino populations: applications in the Hispanic community health study/study of Latinos. The American Journal of Human Genetics, 98(1), 165-184.

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Gatto, N.M., Martinez, L.C., Spruijt-Metz, D., & Davis, J.N. (2017). L.A. sprouts randomized controlled nutrition, cooking, and gardening program reduces obesity and metabolic risk in Hispanic/Latino youth. Pediatric Obesity, 12(1), 28-37.

Gomez, M.G.R., Jaramillo, A.M.L., Svarch, A., Tonda, J., Lara, J., Anderson, E., & Rosales, C. (2019). Together for health: an initiative to access health services for the Hispanic/Mexican population living in the United States. Frontiers in Public Health, 7(273), 1-6.

Medina, L., Sabo, S., & Vespa, J. (2020). Living longer: historical and projected life expectancy in the United States, 1960 to 2060. 

Office of Minority Health. (2019). Profile: Hispanic/Latino Americans

Semega, J., Kollar, M., Creamer, J., & Mohanty, A. (2019). Income and poverty in the United States: 2018.

Showstack, R.E., Guzman, K., Chesser, A.K., & Woods, N.K. (2019). Improving Latino health equity though Spanish language interpreter advocacy in Kansas. Hispanic Health Care International, 17(1), 18-22.

U.S. Census Bureau. (2018). ACS demographic and housing estimates. Web.

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