latino health

Miscommunication among Latinos and health care providers

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Nearly 6 in 10 Hispanic adults have had a difficult time communicating with a health care provider because of a language or cultural barrier, and when they do they often turn to outside sources for help, according to a new study conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The survey finds that half of those who have faced those barriers turned to a family member or to another health care provider for assistance. In addition, more than 1 in 4 looked to a translator, public resources in their community or online sources for help when they faced those issues.

Antonio Torres, 53, of Orlando, Florida, who is bilingual and legally blind, told The AP he regularly struggles to understand the medical terms used by doctors and nurses.

"When I tell them I don't understand them, they'll bring someone over to speak to me in Spanish and I don't understand them, either," said Torres, who is Puerto Rican and was raised in New York. "We didn't grow up speaking that formal Spanish, so I have no idea what they are saying."

At times, Torres said he even gets medicine with his name misspelled on the bottle. "And I don't know if I'm taking my medicine or someone else's," he said.

The language and cultural barriers in health care for Latinos are something advocates have been pointing out for years.

In 2014, for example, the Obama administration faced criticism following the rollout of the Spanish version of the federal health care website, CuidadoDeSalud.gov. The translations were so clunky and full of grammatical mistakes that critics say they must have been computer-generated. The website also translated "premium" into "prima," the Spanish word more commonly used to mean a female cousin among Mexican-Americans and Mexican immigrants.

Along with communication challenges, many Hispanics are concerned about language or cultural accommodations for people in their community who seek long-term care services.

Fewer than half say it would be easy for older Latinos in their area to find a nursing home or assisted living facility with staff that speaks their language, or to find a home health aide who does. Even fewer — less than 3 in 10 — say the same about finding long-term care providers who can prepare the kind of food they are used to. Some have concerns about finding nursing homes and assisted-living facilities that will respect their religious or spiritual beliefs, though fewer have the same concern about home health aides.

Torres said he's not confident he'll find a culturally sensitive nursing home when he's gets older. "I'd rather just live alone and poison myself by accident rather than stay in one of those homes right now," he said.

Like other older Americans, many Hispanics age 40 and older expect to rely on government programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to pay for long-term care services, even though Medicare does not cover most nursing care or home health aides. But only about 2 in 10 think any of these programs will still be providing at least the same level of benefits five years from now. Just 15 percent of older Hispanics are very confident they will be able to pay for their own future long-term care needs.

The survey also finds that a large majority of older Hispanics are open to using at least one type of telemedicine to receive care, including phone consultations, text messages or video services like Skype, although older Hispanics are somewhat less likely than others in their age group to say they'd be comfortable using some types of telemedicine.

Gabriel Vargas, 41, of Lancaster, South Carolina, who is from Veracruz, Mexico, said he felt these resources in his area already were helping Latino residents. The growth of online options, he said, is breaking down the stigma held by Hispanics around regular checkups and preventative care.

"There's a nonprofit group here that goes out of its way to help," said Vargas, whose first language is Spanish. "Maybe 10 years ago, it was tough. But today I think it's become easier."

Latinos Underrate Adult Vaccines

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Adult illnesses that can be prevented by vaccinations cost society billions of dollars each year in treatment, hospitalizations and lost productivity. And sadly, there is also the incalculable cost of losing lives. Vaccinations are not just for kids. They are important for adults too; they prevent adults from getting certain diseases and they help stop the spread of illness. Every adult should check with a health care provider to find out which vaccines, in addition to the flu, that they should get.

Centers for Disease Control data show that 28.7 percent of adults aged 65+ have never had a pneumonia vaccination. When you look at rates of Hispanic adults, that number jumps to nearly 38 percent.

Thousands of adults in the U.S. die every year from vaccine-preventable diseases like pneumonia. I felt guilty that I did not get a chance to share this important information about adult vaccination with my brother. Today, I’ve turned this tragedy into advocacy. In Jerry’s name, I developed a bilingual training program for our “promotores” and community health workers in order to raise awareness — especially in our Latino population. Sadly, Latino adults are among the most under-vaccinated segments of the U.S. population.

According to the CDC, rates of adult vaccination remain “well below” the target levels of 90 percent. Here are some facts to consider:

  • Only about 33 percent of Latino/Hispanic adults in the United States got flu shots in 2015 — down 0.2 percentage points from 2014 and more than 15 percentage points lower than vaccination rates in the white community. It was the only race/ethnicity to see a decline and the lowest vaccination rate of any race/ethnicity.
  • This was even more pronounced in young adults aged 19-49; only 25.1 percent of young Latino/Hispanic adults got the flu shot in 2015 — down nearly two percentage points from 2014 and the lowest of any race/ethnicity. Whites in the same age group had rates of 34.6 percent, and African Americans had rates of 29.1 percent.
  • Only 64.1 percent of older Latino/Hispanic adults (65 and older) got flu shots in 2015, the lowest of any race/ethnicity and more than 10 percentage points lower than whites.
  • For adults living with chronic diseases like asthma, HIV/AIDS, COPD, liver, kidney or heart disease, the risks of being under-vaccinated are even greater. As many as one-third of adults living with chronic illnesses are at greater risk of contracting the potentially deadly pneumococcal disease.
  • People like Jerry, whose immune systems are compromised because of cancer or other non-communicable diseases, should absolutely be vaccinated against those diseases for which they are at risk.

Source: TribTalk