New CDC Report: Hispanics’ Health in the United States

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Health risks vary by Hispanic subgroup

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Health professionals can help Hispanics protect their health by learning about their specific risk factors and addressing barriers to care.

The first national study on Hispanic health risks and leading causes of death in the United States by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that similar to non-Hispanic whites (whites), the two leading causes of death in Hispanics are heart disease and cancer. Fewer Hispanics than whites die from the 10 leading causes of death, but Hispanics had higher death rates than whites from diabetes and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. They have similar death rates from kidney diseases, according to the new Vital Signs.

Health risk can vary by Hispanic subgroup. For example, nearly 66 percent more Puerto Ricans smoke than Mexicans. Health risk also varies partly by whether Hispanics were born in the U.S. or in another country. Hispanics are almost three times as likely to be uninsured as whites. Hispanics in the U.S. are on average nearly 15 years younger than whites, so taking steps now to prevent disease could mean longer, healthier lives for Hispanics.

“Four out of 10 Hispanics die of heart disease or cancer. By not smoking and staying physically active, such as walking briskly for 30 minutes a day, Hispanics can reduce their risk for these chronic diseases and others such as diabetes,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Health professionals can help Hispanics protect their health by learning about their specific risk factors and addressing barriers to care.”

This Vital Signs report recommends that doctors, nurses and other health professionals:

  • Work with interpreters to eliminate language barriers when patients prefer to speak Spanish.
  • Counsel patients with or at high risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, or cancer on weight control and diet.
  • Ask patients if they smoke and, if they do, help them quit.
  • Engage community health workers (promotores de salud) to educate and link people to free or low-cost services.

Hispanic and other Spanish-speaking doctors and clinicians, as well as community health workers or promotores de salud, play a key role in helping to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate outreach to Hispanic patients.

The Vital Signs report used recent national census and health surveillance data to determine differences between Hispanics and whites, and among Hispanic subgroups. Hispanics are the largest racial and ethnic minority group in the U.S. Currently, nearly one in six people living in the U.S. (almost 57 million) is Hispanic, and this is projected to increase to nearly one in four (more than 85 million) by 2035.

Vital Signs is a report that appears on the first Tuesday of the month as part of the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The report provides the latest data and information on key health indicators.

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