Health of NYC Latinos Is Worse than They Think

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A new study conducted by the organization SOMOS Community Care to which El Diario had exclusive access reveals the serious and complex disparities Latinos living in New York City face when seeking and receiving affordable quality health care.

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The report, entitled “Invisible: The State of Latino Health in New York City,” points out the challenges encountered by Latino communities – particularly those who are immigrant and low-income (…).

“Many Hispanics go to hospitals or places where there are no translation services. They often use anyone as a translator – the janitor there who speaks Spanish – which can end up influencing medical decisions and the treatment given to the patient, putting their health at risk,” said Dr. Ramón Tallaj, chairman and founding member of the board of SOMOS Community Care.

According to the study – for which 900 Latino patients and doctors living in the five boroughs were interviewed – 43 percent of Hispanics think that the lack of translation or interpretation services in Spanish is a significant barrier. (…)

Still, while language and cultural barriers, extreme poverty and the lack of health insurance have created a “crisis” in the health of many Latinos, Tallaj named lack of education as another decisive factor.

In this sense, one of the most relevant findings of the report is how this lack of education causes Latinos to have a different perception, often an erroneous one, of their own health, greatly differing from their doctors’.

As an example, the report states that, while 45 percent of Latinos say they are healthy, 54 percent of their doctors say they are not. Similarly, although 33 percent of Latinos think that people in their community are not receiving the medical attention they need, 61 percent of their doctors believe that Latinos face unique obstacles preventing them from having access to health services.

“Because of this difference in perception from what their doctors say, many people fail to take their medicines and follow recommendations thinking they are fine. That is why we need to put our resources into providing education and helping people understand these diseases so that patients can be part of the solution. If they do not admit there is a problem, it will be very hard to treat it,” said Tallaj.

Another clear example of the great discrepancies between patients and physicians is the topic of obesity. Thirteen percent of Latinos admit that this is a growing problem, while 40 percent of their doctors are of that opinion.

“Other issues include the treatments for asthma and diabetes and the ways in which we could treat mental health problems early on,” he said.

According to the SOMOS report, 32 percent of all physicians think that Latinos lack good mental health compared to the general population. Other health issues in which Latinos are disproportionately represented are hypertension, heart disease, smoking addiction and substance abuse.

In an attempt to help improve medical attention for Latinos in New York, Dr. Tallaj said that the report’s findings will be shared with local politicians, legislators, doctors, and community, state and city health organizations.

“We want people who have the power to make decisions in New York’s political field to understand this document, to take action and to implement the measures that are needed to change this,” he said.

SOMOS Community Care is a nonprofit organization composed of over 2,000 physicians and health providers serving more than 700,000 patients from low-income immigrant communities.

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