This article highlights information from OCHLA’s latest report titled An Overview of Health Care Access in Ohio’s Hispanic Community. Contact: Andrea Magaña Lewis, Public Policy Officer, Ohio Latino Affairs Commission

The expanding Latino demographic in Ohio and across the country presents unique challenges and opportunities for health care providers, policy makers and health care organizations. Accessing health care is problematic for many Hispanics who are more likely to be uninsured than all other racial/ethnic groups living in the United States. In 2015, 18 percent of Hispanic Ohioans lacked health insurance, compared to just 8 percent of African Americans and 6 percent of Caucasians[1]

Certain obstacles such as high costs of health care, low-wage jobs that do not provide employer-based health insurance, and the low average income and educational attainment of Hispanics in Ohio disproportionately impact the community, thus hindering equal accessibility[2]. While the uninsured rate for Hispanics has significantly declined since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, disparities in health care access remain[3].

Aside from income and educational barriers, the Hispanic community must also confront a unique set of social circumstances that impact access to health care. Language access, cultural differences, transportation and logistical challenges, and immigration status are serious barriers that are especially prevalent in the New American community. Approximately half of Hispanics in Ohio report speaking Spanish at home, and 20 percent of these individuals are not able to speak English fluently[4]. Language barriers directly impact access to care, as communication is critical to the delivery of services and the development of provider-patient relationships. Studies show that “language barriers between providers and patients may result in excessive ordering of medical tests, lack of understanding of medication side effects and provider instructions, decreased use of primary care, increased use of the emergency department, and inadequate follow-up”[5]. Similarly, the absence of a culturally responsive approach by medical professionals may lead to a breakdown in communication. Every day, doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals must use subjective analysis when interpreting patient needs. The professionals that lack appropriate training in cultural and linguistic competence may have difficulty accurately evaluating the needs of patients from different racial or ethnic groups, as their analyses of patients may be subconsciously influenced by implicit biases.

The significant underrepresentation of Latinos in the health care field contributes to the lack of culturally and linguistically competent medical services that Latinos may experience. Of the practicing physicians in the United States in 2012, only 5.2 percent identify as Hispanic/Latino, even though Latinos comprise 17 percent of the nation’s population.[6] Although the Latino population has grown over the past three decades, the proportion of Hispanic physicians in the United States has decreased, as there were approximately 135 Latino doctors per every 100,000 patients in 1980, but in 2010 there were only 105 Latino doctors per 100,000 patients[7].

Even in the absence of cultural and linguistic barriers, logistical challenges may hinder the ability of individuals to access the health services they need[8]. Many low-income Hispanics, and especially immigrants, rely heavily on the public bus system or family and friends for their transportation needs, which provides less control over daily schedules making it difficult to attend appointments. Additionally, individuals may not have the time or financial capability to take time off work for a doctor’s appointment.

Community outreach and engagement is critical to ensuring Latinos are aware of the services available to them and to overcoming barriers and stigmas. Likewise, education and outreach to health care professionals is important to develop and strengthen relationships with the Latino communities they serve. Developing a culturally competent workforce is critical to successful health outcomes, and promoting the recruitment of Latinos in the health and mental health care field should be prioritized to diversify a sector that is vastly underrepresented by Latinos. Collaboration with universities, high schools, community leaders and Latino organizations would be beneficial to developing a career pathway to the health care industry.

The Ohio Latino Affairs Commission continues to make progress in these areas through our partnerships, educational initiatives and participation on boards focused on reducing health disparities. We stand ready to assist the State of Ohio in improving access and health outcomes for Latinos and the New American community, and are committed to equipping state leaders with key information on Ohio’s Hispanic communities.

 

[1] Uninsured Rates for the Nonelderly by Race/Ethnicity. The Henry J. Kaiser Foundation. 2015.

2 Ortega, Alexander; Rodriguez, Hector; Vargas Bustamante, Arturo. Policy Dilemmas in Latino Health Care and Implementation of the Affordable Care Act.Annu Rev Public Health. 18 March 2015.

3 Health and Health Care for Hispanics in the United States. The Henry J. Kaiser Foundation. 2017.

4 Ibid. Ohio Hispanic Americans.

5 Ibid. Hispanics and the Future of America

6 Deville, Curtiland; Hwang, Wei-Ting; Burgos, Ramon. Diversity in Graduate Medical Education in the United States by Race, Ethnicity, and Sex, 2012  JAMA Internal Medicine. 2012.

7 Rivero, Enrique. Rate of Latino physicians shrinks, even as Latino population swells. UCLA Newsroom. 10 February 2015.

8 Barriers to Immigrants’ Access to Health and Human Services Programs. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. May 2012.

[1] Uninsured Rates for the Nonelderly by Race/Ethnicity. The Henry J. Kaiser Foundation. 2015.

[2] Ortega, Alexander; Rodriguez, Hector; Vargas Bustamante, Arturo. Policy Dilemmas in Latino Health Care and Implementation of the Affordable Care Act.Annu Rev Public Health. 18 March 2015.

[3] Health and Health Care for Hispanics in the United States. The Henry J. Kaiser Foundation. 2017.

[4] Ibid. Ohio Hispanic Americans.

[5] Ibid. Hispanics and the Future of America

[6] Deville, Curtiland; Hwang, Wei-Ting; Burgos, Ramon. Diversity in Graduate Medical Education in the United States by Race, Ethnicity, and Sex, 2012  JAMA Internal Medicine. 2012.

[7] Rivero, Enrique. Rate of Latino physicians shrinks, even as Latino population swells. UCLA Newsroom. 10 February 2015.

[8] Barriers to Immigrants’ Access to Health and Human Services Programs. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. May 2012.

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