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Honoring Hispanic Heritage Month

Last updated: September 13, 2023

Some Hispanic patients may not readily share information about their health issues unless they feel comfortable with and trust the medical provider. It’s important for providers to understand that building a relationship first is valuable.

Dr. Jose Hernandez, Family Medicine Physician, ThedaCare Physicians-Appleton North

Sometimes knowledge makes all the difference in managing your health. As we mark National Hispanic Heritage Month, it offers a good reminder for patients of Hispanic origin to schedule an appointment for a wellness exam.

It’s also important to understand certain health risks that are more prevalent among people of Hispanic descent.

“Patients of Hispanic heritage should understand that they may be at greater risk for certain health conditions than the general population,” says Dr. Jose Hernandez, a Family Medicine Physician at ThedaCare Physicians-Appleton North.

Getting treated early and managing disease are vital steps to take toward long-term wellness.

Health Risks

“The Hispanic population has a lower death rate than white patients overall,” Dr. Hernandez says. “But, the death rate for particular diseases, including diabetes, can be much higher.”

In addition to having higher rates of type 2 diabetes, Hispanic adults are 1.2 times more likely to be overweight or obese than white adults. Hispanic children were 1.8 times more likely to be obese than white children between 2013 and 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health.

Obesity can contribute to other health risks, including some liver diseases. Hispanic patients are at higher risk of developing liver diseases than other populations, Dr. Hernandez says.

Almost 25% of Hispanic people have high blood pressure (hypertension), which can also lead to other serious health conditions. These include heart failure, heart attacks, stroke, and kidney disease.

“There are also variances in certain disease risk depending on a patient’s specific heritage. The death rate from diabetes jumps in people of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent, for example,” Dr. Hernandez says. “So, it’s important for patients to talk with their providers about their heritage and background to see if there are any additional health screenings that they may need.”

Disparities in Health Care

The Pew Research Center reported in 2022 that Hispanic Americans overall face certain disparities and challenges when it comes to accessing health care. Hispanic adults are less likely than other racial groups to have health insurance. Therefore, they’re less likely to seek preventive care, which is an important factor in preventing or managing chronic conditions like diabetes.

The COVID-19 pandemic also took a toll. Hispanic people were more likely to have been hospitalized or have died because of the virus than white populations. Social factors such as socioeconomic status, communication barriers, and concerns about residency status may also impact how and when Hispanic patients seek care.

Different Preferences and Beliefs

People of Hispanic heritage may have different and distinct sets of cultural beliefs. An individual’s country of origin or generation in which they grew up can play a role as well.

“Some Hispanic patients may not readily share information about their health issues unless they feel comfortable with and trust the medical provider,” Dr. Hernandez says. “It’s important for providers to understand that building a relationship first is valuable.”

That can include spending a little time making conversation before discussing medical issues. In addition, Hispanic individuals might be more likely to want to have family present and taking part in health care decision-making. It may also mean respecting the role of religion and spirituality in a patient’s healing process.

Some Hispanic patients may feel more comfortable talking with a Spanish-speaking provider. The ThedaCare Provider Directory allows you to search for providers specifically by language spoken as well as other characteristics. Interpreter services are available in cases when seeing a Spanish-speaking provider isn’t possible.

As we honor Hispanic Heritage Month, Dr. Hernandez stresses the importance of preventive care. “It’s important to keep up with annual wellness exams to catch and manage chronic conditions early,” he says. “ThedaCare wants patients in the Hispanic population, and all populations, to feel empowered to take control of their health and well-being. We’re here to support their journey.”

Tags: Hispanic health care Hispanic Heritage Month Spanish-speaking health providers

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