Although Latinos score better on certain health indicators, such as life expectancy, when compared to other minority groups in the US, they are faced with unique health issues that demonstrate poor access to quality care. Statistics show that Latinos have a higher life expectancy than other minority groups but are more affected by health issues related to delays in seeking health care services (Peterson-Iyer, 2008). The Latinos are highly affected by diabetes mellitus, tuberculosis, and hypertension among other health issues that become severe when coupled with delays in seeking healthcare services. Lack of effective access to healthcare services among Latinos can be associated with cultural differences and cultural beliefs that are against the conventions of modern health care. Latinos comprise more than 15% of the total US population and comprise the largest minority group in 20 out of the 50 states (Peterson-Iyer, 2008). The largest number of Latinos in the US is from Mexico, but there is a significant number of Hispanics from South American countries. People from Latin America are faced with cultural and language barriers when accessing health care services in the US.
There are significant cultural and linguistic differences between the mainstream American culture and the Latinos from South America. Cultural factors, including expectations about how a person should react to pain, language differences and association of certain health conditions with nature, create barriers to healthcare access for Latinos. For example, some native communities in Latin America view pregnancy as a natural process that does not require any medical attention (Peterson-Iyer, 2008). The Latinos from South America are more affected by language barriers since a significant number cannot properly communicate using English or Spanish languages. People from South American countries are often referred to as Hispanics in the US. However, a significant number of people from South American do not speak Spanish at all, and this is demonstrated by the native communities in Brazil and Argentina (Peterson-Iyer, 2008). Reports show that Latinos feel less satisfied with the conversation with health care professionals in the US when compared with the whites and African Americans (Peterson-Iyer, 2008). The differences in cultural view on medication and language form the basis for barriers to access to quality care services for Latinos from South America.
Studies have shown a relationship between language and usual source of care for Hispanics of working age in the US, with those who prefer English being associated more with the usual form of care (Escarce & Kapur, 2006). The usual source of care is the formal system that is recommended for seeking health care services, such as a clinic or physician’s office. Seeking services from a usual source of care demonstrates familiarity with the healthcare providers and system. The case of Hispanics shows that culture, and language in particular, is a major barrier to access to healthcare services. Those who can speak English are more likely to seek healthcare services in the formal system than those who speak Spanish. Spanish is the main language in South America, meaning that the people from these countries face language barriers when accessing healthcare services in the US. Also, language barriers contribute to uncertainties about costs and procedures in the healthcare system (Escarce & Kapur, 2006). Clearly, there is a lot of discomfort for Latinos seeking health care services in the US because of language barriers that makes communication with healthcare professionals difficult and uncertainties about the operations of the health care system.
The number of the Latinos in the US healthcare system is low when compared to the proportion of the population, and this contributes to the high level of cultural barriers. Statistics show that the rise in the population of Latinos does not match with the number of health care professionals who are better placed to understand their culture (Peterson-Iyer, 2008). There are clear differences in the distribution of health care professionals in regions that are popular with Latinos. For example, areas that are popular with Hispanics in California are four times more likely to report a shortage of physicians, irrespective of working incentives, as compared to areas that are predominant with non-Hispanic whites (Escarce & Kapur, 2006). This difference is associated with the low number of Latinos that serve in the US health care system. Consequently, there are many linguistic challenges for Latinos when interacting with professionals in the US health care system. Linguistic barriers in healthcare can result in a wide range of issues including misdiagnosis and failure to adhere to treatment because of lack of clear communication between a patient and a health care professional. The health care environment complicates the linguistic barriers because of the terminologies used and the emotions by the patient.
Thus, cultural and linguistic differences are major issues for Latinos from South America when seeking health care services in the US. The culture of people from South America does not support some aspects of modern care and the situation is complicated by language barriers between Hispanic patients and healthcare professionals. Language barriers contribute to uncertainties about the healthcare system and this is associated with the low number of Latinos willing to seek healthcare services through the formal system. There is a clear relationship between cultural and language barriers and lack of patient satisfaction and quality care. The Latinos are more reluctant to seek medical care services and this has resulted in a high number of people with severe chronic conditions because of delay in seeking help from healthcare professionals. The cultural and language barriers for Latinos is contributed by a shortage of Hispanic healthcare professionals in the US, meaning that few people can clearly understand the needs of Latino patients from the cultural point of view.
- Escarce, J., & Kapur, K. (2006). 10 Access to and quality of health care. National Academies Press. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK19910/
- Peterson-Iyer, K. (2008). Culturally competent care for Latino patients. Santa Clara University. Retrieved from https://www.scu.edu/ethics/focus-areas/bioethics/resources/culturally-competent-care/culturally-competent-care-for-latino-patients/