Promoting the Health of Our Hispanic Patients

Tom Frieden, MD, MPH


June 15, 2015

Editorial Collaboration

Medscape &

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An increasing proportion of our patients are Hispanic or Latino. They come from a wide variety of backgrounds and countries, and the epidemiology is different depending on their length of time in the United States, whether they are US- or foreign-born, and their country of origin. We have seen overall that Hispanic health has bright spots and not-so-bright spots. Rates of heart disease and cancer are lower than in white Americans, but they could be lower still if we do a better job of reducing smoking and controlling blood pressure.

Rates of cirrhosis and diabetes are higher in Hispanics, and we need to address those problems specifically with such approaches as hepatitis B vaccination, hepatitis C testing and treatment when appropriate, and counseling on physical activity. Simply encouraging a 30-minutes brisk walk every day can make a huge difference to obesity rates and potentially reduce the risk for fatty liver and disease associated with fatty infiltration of the liver.

Furthermore, for our Hispanic populations, we need to reduce barriers. Speaking Spanish (or getting translators when that is preferred by patients) and using community health workers, also known as promotores de salud, will help link patients to care and ensure that they remain engaged in care. We can take best care of all of our patients by addressing the specific needs of the populations we serve.