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Latinos in HD: A view of health disparities

Latinos are among the highest of ethnic groups affected by an array of diseases, and access to high quality food and health care.  The difference in specific populations is the presence of disease, poor health outcomes, or access to health care is known is collectively known as a health disparity.

Health disparities are visible in areas where there is limited socioeconomic growth and areas affected by poverty.  They creep up in supermarkets/bodegas, the primary oasis for nourishment, with the sale of nutritionally deficient commercial foods, a major symptom of food deserts. (You can refer to my BL blog, Are you living in a Food Desert? for more on food deserts).

Health inequalities also show themselves in the presence of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), cancer, infant mortality, chronic diseases: asthma, the flu, heart disease, diabetes, poverty, and obesity.

Here are some examples of health disparities:

Hispanics are 1.6 times more likely to die of diabetes than non-Hispanic whites.

Latinos were among the highest uninsured ethnic groups in the US, with their rate increasing from 32.3% to 34.1% from 2005 through 2006, while the rate for non-whites remained at 10.8 percent.

Fellow Being Latino blogger Nicolle Morales Kern cited in her recent blog, Talking About HIV/AIDS, that, in 2007 Latinos in the U.S. accounted for 19% of people living with AIDS, making us the third highest affected demographic .

At 21.5%, Latinos make up the second largest population in the US living in poverty.  Blacks are at the top of the national rate, at 24.3%.

Hunger is an especially pervasive issue in Latino families.  More than one in four Latino households—26.9 percent—struggles to put food on the table, compared to 14.6 percent of all households.

Due to a lack of translation and interpretation services in many areas that service Latinos, patients are misdiagnosed, under- or over-treated, or their medical history is reported inaccurately.

There’s hope!  Model programs such as Salud America! a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), support research on environmental and policy solutions to the epidemic of obesity among Latino children.  That’s just one facet of the work they do towards eliminating Latino health disparities. The CDC’s REACH program was created to eliminate health disparities by identifying Action Communities (AC) that utilize culturally diverse program to improve Latino health and nutrition.  To add to the CDC’s roster of community based interventions is AVANZANDO, which “focuses on enhancing the ability of community-based organizations to replicate, adapt and implement HIV Prevention Interventions that are most applicable to the community being served.”

Defining health disparities means identifying  what we need to do now to enhance Latino health as a community and steps we can take together. There are hundreds of organizations at our fingertips ready to serve as advocates.  Let’s clear up the blurred lines of health disparities, get healthy, and ready to see our community roll out in high definition!

¡Cuídate Latino!

References and Resources

National Council of La Raza

Food Desert/Food Desert Awareness Month

Green Living Institute

Centers For Disease Control and Prevention – REACH Program

Bread for the World

Salud America! – The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Salud Today!


by Jeanelle Roman


About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. We need to educate ourselves. Try to share our points of view with other people that may not be aware or self conscious about these issues in order to make a difference.
    It stars at home. If we take the first step and educate ourselves we would have made a big difference. However, If we educate our children, we could improve a whole brand new generation’s way of living, and many more generations after that.

  2. Miguel says:

    Lets hope many will heed this info and watch their health so that these numbers MIGHT improve. Thank you for being a trailblazer for this information because I think that THAT has beent the problem, a lack of info.

  3. k. Cedano says:

    Jeanellyyyy!! I like reading your posts, always very informative…

    It’s important to know what we lack and take progressive steps to achieve a solution!

  4. Right on, Juan. That is the foundation of learning in all generations. thank you for your post!

  5. Miguel, thanks. I thank my colleagues right here on BL for also sharing their knowledge and research. We’re all in this together. If we want to improve these figures we need to consider info sharing the norm, rather than the exception. this will move our generation and those of the future forward.

  6. Thanks, K. Knowing is half the battle!

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