Sometimes having more information can make a difference in managing and treating your health. That’s why for Hispanic Heritage Month, which is recognized September 15 to October 15 each year, it’s a good time for patients of Hispanic origin to schedule an appointment for a regular wellness exam.
“Patients of Hispanic heritage should understand that they may be at greater risk for certain health conditions than the general population,” said Jose Hernandez, M.D., a Family Medicine Physician with ThedaCare Physicians-Appleton North. “For example, Hispanics are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than non-Hispanic people.”
Dr. Hernandez explained that getting treated early and managing disease is vital to long-term wellness.
“The Hispanic population has a lower death rate than white patients overall,” he said. “But, the death rate for particular diseases, including diabetes, can be much higher.”
Additionally, Hispanic adults are 1.2 times more likely to be overweight or obese than white adults, and 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 disease, which Hispanic patients are at higher risk of developing than other populations, Dr. Hernandez said. Also, almost 25% of Hispanic people have high blood pressure (hypertension), which also can lead to other serious health conditions such as cardiovascular disease including heart failure, heart attacks and stroke, as well as kidney disease.
While cancer risk is generally lower for Hispanic patients, there can be at greater risk of cancers related to infections—including liver, cervical and stomach cancers—if the patient was born outside of the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“There are also variances in certain disease risk depending on a patient’s specific heritage—the death rate from diabetes jumps in Mexicans and Puerto Ricans, for example,” Dr. Hernandez said. “So, it’s important for patients talk with their providers about their heritage and background to see if there are any additional health screenings that may be needed.”
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, and therefore less likely to seek preventive care, which is an important factor in heading off or managing chronic conditions like diabetes.
The COVID-19 pandemic also took a toll, with Hispanic people more likely to have been hospitalized or have died because of the virus than white populations. Social factors such as socioeconomic status, communication barriers, or concerns about residency status may also impact how and when Hispanic patients seek care.
People of Hispanic heritage may have different and distinct sets of cultural beliefs that can be influenced by their family’s particular country of origin, as well as by generation or where they grew up. But they also may share, in general, certain commonalities that health care providers should be aware of when working with patients of Hispanic heritage.
“Some Hispanic patients may not readily share information about their health issues unless they feel comfortable with and trust the medical provider,” Dr. Hernandez said. “It’s important for providers to understand that building a relationship first is very valuable.”
That may include spending a little time making conversation before discussing medical issues, as well as understanding the importance of having family present and taking part in helping to make healthcare decisions. It also means respecting the role of religion and spirituality in a patient’s healing process.
Some Hispanic patients also may feel more comfortable talking with a Spanish-speaking provider. ThedaCare’s Find a Provider database allows for patients to search for providers specifically by language spoken, as well as other filters such as by medical condition or location of office. Interpreter services are available in cases where seeing a Spanish-speaking provider isn’t possible.
“It’s important to keep up with annual wellness exams to catch and manage chronic conditions early,” Dr. Hernandez said. “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.”
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 650,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 providers and team members. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique, best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts about a patient’s care. ThedaCare is proud to partner with Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network to enhance convenient access to the most advanced levels of specialty care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.