Spanish Speakers in America Face Barriers to Health Care

September 18, 2008

Spanish-speaking Hispanics in America have less access to health care, while immigrant children are increasingly uninsured and disparities along the border with Mexico are a persistent problem, according to three studies published online Sept. 17 in the American Journal of Public Health.

THURSDAY, Sept. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Spanish-speaking Hispanics in America have less access to health care, while immigrant children are increasingly uninsured and disparities along the border with Mexico are a persistent problem, according to three studies published online Sept. 17 in the American Journal of Public Health.

C. Annette DuBard, M.D., and Ziya Gizlice, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, surveyed data on 45,076 Hispanic adults in 23 states and found that Spanish speakers have less access to health care and preventive services. Susmita Pati, M.D., and a colleague at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia analyzed data on low-income children and found that contrary to the popular perception that immigrant children rely on public health insurance programs more than U.S.-born children, they were in fact 1.59 times more likely than U.S.-born children to be uninsured versus publicly insured.

Elena Bastida, Ph.D., of the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort North, Texas, and colleagues looked at health care use among 1,048 Latino residents of certain Texas border counties and found that 60 percent of those under 65 years of age had no health insurance and were far more likely than their insured counterparts to use medical services over the border in Mexico.

"For some, Mexico may lessen the burden at the individual level, but it does not lessen the aggregate burden of providing highly priced care to the region's neediest," Bastida and colleagues write. "Health disparities will continue unless policies are enacted to expand health care accessibility in the region."

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