Now Reading: Pew Hispanic Center’s Hispanics and Health Care in the United States

Tomorrow I will be in Oakland, California, along with health care leaders from the California Heatlhcare Foundation, California Safety Net Organizations, National Leaders in Patient Online Access in the Safety Net, and other national leaders in the social aspect of the Internet for Americans to talk about patient online access in the health safety net. It promises to be a very interesting day, which I’ll post about here.

The referenced report is one of two recent studies on the impact of the Internet among Latinos in the United States, and among all Californians (next post). They are both timely and useful as we answer the question that I was asked many times while visiting Safety Net medical centers: “Are our patients online?”

Pew Hispanic Center Report: Hispanics and Health Care in the United States: Access, Information and Knowledge

This report describes research performed jointly by the Pew Hispanic Center and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and consisted of a bilingual telephone survey of a nationally represented samle of 4,013 Hispanic adults conducted from July – September, 2007.

Highlights from my review

  • 27 % of Latinos report having no usual care provider, the rate is 42 % for those without insurance.According to the CDC, the proportion among Hispanics is more than double that of non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks.
  • Language differences are significant: 24 % are English dominant, 35 % are bilingual, 41 % are Spanish-dominant. This has significance with regard to the Internet….only 17% of Spanish-dominant Latinos receive health information from the Internet, compared to 53 % of their English-dominant peers. Interestingly, those of South American descent report a 51 % figure, higher than the figure for Puerto Rican (49%) and Mexico (31%).
  • Fleshing the language issue a bit more: 40 percent of those who get health information from the television get it from Spanish-language stations. For those getting information from radio, 47 % rely on Spanish language radio stations
  • Youth is a factor: 42 % of those aged 18-29 get health information from the Internet.
  • Overall, 35% of Hispanics get their health information from the Internet, far behind television (68%), radio (40%), or a doctor (72%)
  • Also of interest to me is in the demographics of this population, younger than their non-Hispanic cohorts, and with lower rates of chronic disease today (20 % with high blood pressure, compared to 22.4 % Non-Hispanic White, 31.6 % Non-Hispanic Black)
  • And….in terms of health seeking, 41% said the reason they did not have a regular health provider was because they are seldom sick. The impact? Only 62 % of these individuals have had their blood pressure checked in the last 2 years.

What impressed me overall was the impact of language – it reinforces what I saw from my observations way back in November 2007:

Key health care leaders are saying the time for PHRs are now. Based on the Boston visit, I am saying the time for multilingual and culturally relevant PHRs is now.

Obviously, I still believe that, and this is why I am especially excited that one of the organizations presenting to us today is Cambridge Health Alliance (see information about my visits with CHA here), who have launched their personal health record to a population that is predominanly portuguese-speaking.

Without parity in access to quality health information, the concern is that the dependence on the in-person interaction with the health provider is greater for Spanish-dominant individuals than for English-dominant, and therefore the risk is greater that needed preventive care will not happen if they do not have a usual health care provider. The data appear to bear this out. It is worth thinking – if you did not have your blood pressure checked in the last 2 years, how would you be able to reassure your family about your ability to provide for them with a healthy heart? Should these individuals wait for their organs to be damaged, or should they have an equal chance at providing for themselves and their families with healthy hearts, brains, and kidneys? Thank you to the Pew Hispanic Center and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for informing these questions.

Ted Eytan, MD