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Study To Focus On Lifestyle Of Latinos, Hispanic Children Less Healthy

Study To Focus On Lifestyle Of Latinos, Hispanic Children Less Healthy

Extensive Health Study To Focus On Lifestyle Of Latinos And Asian Americans

By Dennis Freytes | Mi Opinión

June 15, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved.

The University of Michigan, Institute of Social Research, the largest in the nation, is conducting a ground-breaking scientific study on the health of Latinos and Asian Americans.

Despite the rapid growth of Latino and Asian Americans in the United States, there is almost no information about their health and life circumstances. This research study, titled the National Latino and Asian American Study (NLAAS), aims to determine and understand how cultural, lifestyle factors, and social environments are related to the health, health care, and health service delivery among Latino and Asian populations.

One reason for this study is that the U.S. Surgeon General has determined that disparities in health services exist for racial and ethnic minorities. Thus, the information gathered from this study will help public policy makers design health services and programs to improve the quality of life for Latino and Asian Americans.

Financial support for this study comes from the National Institutes of Health.

The co-directors of the study are Dr. Margarita Alegría, a psychologist at the University of Puerto Rico; and Dr. David Takeuchi, a sociologist at Indiana University.

This is the most comprehensive scientific health study of these segments of the population ever to be done. The random sample includes more than 65,000 selected national addresses, over 8,000 eligible respondents and a control group will be interviewed.

The study will last about a year. Cooperation among those selected is very important because, as a random sample, there are no substitutes for the respondents.

After a random screening, selected respondents will receive $50 for completing the scientific interview. The community is asked to support this very important study.

The Institute for Social Research, Survey Research Center, has more than 50 years of experience conducting research on important social issues. It is not a government agency and never releases names or addresses to anyone.

The interview is strictly confidential. Researchers see only the numbers that represent the answers to the questions. The center is sending teams of certified interviewers/screeners across the country to gather information about a wide range of attitudes, experiences, and behaviors that will help improve the quality of life of Hispanic and Asian Americans.

Dennis Freytes lives in Orlando. He is among those working on the research study in Central Florida for the University of Michigan.

Hispanic Children Less Healthy

By Robyn Suriano and Kelly Brewington | Sentinel Staff Writers

July 3, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved.


Margarita Moya was blowing out candles on her 10th birthday cake when her lips turned violet -- her mother's first clue that her daughter had asthma.

Now 16, Margarita cannot play volleyball in school and must be rushed to the emergency room at least four times a year to deal with dangerous asthma attacks. The Puerto Rican teen's health is a constant concern.

"I worry about her all the time," said her mother Vanessa Lopez of Orlando. "Even the change of weather can affect her."

About 500,000 Hispanic children in America are suffering from asthma, which is among a list of illnesses that strike the youngsters more than other ethnic groups in the country, according to a report published in today's Journal of the American Medical Association.

Hispanic children are more likely to suffer from obesity, diabetes, tuberculosis and other problems, the report found.

They are hospitalized more often and die more frequently from injuries or complications of asthma, lead poisoning and cancer.

They receive fewer prescriptions and less dental care than other kids.

Hispanic children -- who numbered 12.3 million nationwide in 2000 census data -- are less likely than other groups to have medical insurance.

Even when insured, their care can be compromised by such barriers as lack of transportation and communication problems.

The report, written by the Latino Consortium within the American Academy of Pediatrics, calls for doctors to stop ignoring the problems of Hispanic children, who number 1 of every 6 children in the country.

"If the disparities continue, it has the potential to affect the health and productivity and well-being of our entire nation," said Dr. Glenn Flores, a Boston physician and lead author of the report.

The consortium found that the ethnic group is grossly underrepresented in health-care professions.

Although 16 percent of American children are Hispanic, only 5 percent of pediatricians and 2 percent of nurses are Hispanic. More Hispanic health workers would help alleviate the problems, the report said.

"Latino physicians are significantly more likely to care for Latino and uninsured patients, and Latino patients are more likely to be satisfied with health care from Latino physicians," according to the report.

Another major problem is lack of health insurance among Hispanic kids.

Twenty-seven percent of them are uninsured, compared with 9 percent of non-Hispanic white children, 18 percent of black children and 17 percent of Asian children.

Without health insurance, they are less likely to get any care or only receive treatment when taken to an emergency room.

They have no long-term relationship with a physician who gets to know the child and provide a higher level of care.

Some doctors weren't surprised by the study.

"There's nothing new here. This report is kind of stating the obvious," said Dr. Steven Rosenberg, a Florida Hospital pediatric allergist.

"If you have good health care and you live in a good environment, you're going to have a healthier life. It's usually the poorer people who have less health care and are going to be sicker. A kid who is seeing a pediatrician is just going to do better than one who is getting dragged into an emergency room."

In its recommendations, the Latino Consortium calls on doctors to involve Hispanics more often in medical studies and to design research that looks specifically at the problems they're encountering.

The Hispanic population has exploded in the past decade -- up 58 percent from 1990 to 2000. In Central Florida, the census found 323,000 Hispanics, an increase of 157 percent from 1990.

"The demographics have changed so quickly that we're now in a position of having very limited data to understand what's happening," said Dr. Elena Fuentes-Afflick, a San Francisco pediatrician and member of the consortium.

Doctors know that genetics plays a role in asthma. The report noted that two-thirds of the 500,000 Hispanic children with the breathing condition are Puerto Rican.

The problem is compounded by weight gain, which is another problem afflicting Hispanic youngsters at a higher rate.

"If you're a little bit more obese, that leads to smaller lung volume, and if you have asthma on top of that, it makes the asthma much worse," said Dr. Floyd Livingston, chief of pulmonology at Nemours Children's Clinic in Orlando.

To address these issues, the consortium also recommended recruiting more Hispanics into health-care jobs; educating all professionals in cultural differences that can compromise care; and improving health-insurance coverage to these children.

"It is time for our health policies, services and research to address this dramatic demographic change," the report said.

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