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The Latin Shift Series: How Latinos Are Changing Health Care Pt. 1

The Potential Hispanic-American Public Health Crisis

By: Oscar L. Orias

The United States government has released the new census report and Latinos have surpassed all predictions by reaching 50 million people. Latinos now make up more than 16% of the population and there are no signs of slowing down. In Houston, Latinos make up more than 40% of the population and contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to our economy Their number in Houston the rest of the country keep growing at an exponential rate (43% increase since 2000). With this rapid shift in population come shifts in customs, culture, lifestyle, and health to this nation. For Latinos health and wellness is becoming a concerning and dangerous issue. 1 in 2 Latino children will develop type-2 Diabetes and 1 in 4 Latinos are obese. The numbers are similar to other minorities groups, especially if they are below the poverty line. This is due to factors such as low socio-economical status, income levels, and the change in diet and lifestyle from Latin America. Since Latinos children are the fastest segment group in the U.S., their well-being is crucial to health of the country. Unfortunately, the government has done little in the way recognizing and dealing with the problem from a public health aspect. This is still seen by many as a Latino problem not an American problem. With such exponential growth, the nation can’t afford to ignore Hispanic concerns. This series raises awareness of the different health aspects and problems that Latinos face. Latinos are changes how health care is viewed, implemented, consumed, financed, and delivered.

Diabetes and Obesity: The Latino Killers?

Latinos came to this country to achieve and share the American dream with their family. That American Dream has come at a high price to the fitness and well-being of the Latino family, especially children. More than 1 in 2 Latino children will develop diabetes in their lifetime and Mexican-Americans are more lightly to become obese. These statistics become bleaker when you look at the fact that Hispanics are 1.6 times more likely to die from diabetes than their White counter parts. For Mexican-Americans, they have 56% higher chance of dying from diabetes than Whites.

Diabetes and obesity are catalyst to health problems down the road. They can cause other concerns such as heart failure, cancer, renal disease and failure, pregnancy complications, and premature death. It can even damage and disrupt bone development in teens. Obesity has been linked to psychological and social problems in children, especially young adults. It can even lead to diabetes down the road.

The direct economic toll to treat these arrays of diseases reaches in the tens of billions. In 2007 the economic cost of treating diabetes was $127 billion. According to the American Diabetes Association this was a $42 billion dollar increase in spending from 2002. For obesity the toll is as high as $147 billion annually (2006 figures). The indirect economic toll such as lost productivity and quality of life are also very high. For diabetes the indirect cost is over $58 billion with a loss in national productivity of $26 billion.

The Burden of Diabetes and Obesity to the Households

It is estimated that diabetes cost on average $11, 744 per person per year. For obesity, patients spent an average of $1,429 more on health care than did people within the normal weight range. Even with adequate insurance coverage and government assistance many Latino families, especially ones below the poverty line have a difficult time paying for treatments. Families sacrifice basic and essential needs like heating and food in order to pay for treatment and prescription medication. Many of these impoverished patients end up accumulating huge credit card debts in order to pay for these large expenses. Paying these credit card debts and their high interest rates can cause long-term and even generational economic problems. These families focus most of their resources in combating diseases and debt at the expense of important long-term financial investments like college education (Latinos rank near the bottom in college attendance). This isn’t strictly a Latino issue, these diseases effect all races and ethnicities from the lower socio-economic standings.

Diabetes and obesity create loses in financial production for families and the community. These loses in productivity are devastating for families living on the fiscal edge. Treating diabetes and obesity related disease drains a family’s time, energy, and emotions. That same time and energy could utilized in becoming more financially and socially productive. These poor families end up making hard decisions and creating bad habit just to pay for treatment. Many of them end up consuming inferior foods and goods that are low in nutrients and high in fats, calories, and sugar. These foods are usually inexpensive juices and soft drinks with high amount of fructose corn syrup and fast food burgers laden with saturated fat and calories. For these families eating from the dollar menu at McDonald’s cheaper than buying leafy greens and fruits. In many Latino neighborhoods junk and fast food is more accessible than a grocery store. This ends up being a vicious cycle of disease that never gets properly treated and managed.

Part 2: Inadequate Care for Latinos

These grave health care issues are compounded by the inadequate access to care for Hispanics. This lack of care stems from several factors such as socio-economical standing, government policy, underinsurance, lack of income to treat these diseases, and how Latinos culturally view medicine and certain treatments. The next blog we will explore and go in-depth into these factors, especially into the socio-economic conditions that affect all races and ethnicities.

Stay tuned and please comment on my blog! All comments are welcomed and appreciated!

Citation:
Wolfe , Lahle A. “1 in 2 Hispanic Children May Develop Diabetes.” World Diabetes Day USA. 1 Oct. 2009. Web. 08 Apr. 2011. .

Pallarito, Karen. “How the Costs of Type 2 Diabetes Add Up – Type 2 Diabetes – Health.com.” Health.com: Health News, Wellness, and Medical Information. 6 May 2008. Web. 08 Apr. 2011. .

Holden, By Diana. “Fact Check: The Cost of Obesity – CNN.com.” CNN.com – Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News. 9 Feb. 2009. Web. 08 Apr. 2011. .

“Direct & Indirect Costs of Diabetes in the United States – American Diabetes Association.” American Diabetes Association Home Page. Web. 08 Apr. 2011. .

Henneberg, Molly. “Hispanic Boom Brings Big Changes for Nation and Its Politics – FoxNews.com.” FoxNews.com – Breaking News | Latest News | Current News. 24 Mar. 2010. Web. 08 Apr. 2011. .