Health Care for Hispanic Immigrants: Improving the Accessibility and Quality of Preventive Services
There are over 20 million foreign-born Hispanics currently living in the United States. Research shows Hispanic immigrants are healthier than U.S. natives upon arrival, yet their health deteriorates over time. Lifestyle changes coupled with lack of health care increase the prevalence of preventable chronic conditions. In the past three decades, U.S. federal and state policies defining the extent of preventive health services for immigrants have been inconsistent and controversial. Some experts have called for expansion of health insurance coverage for Hispanic immigrants; however, lack of insurance is not the only barrier to obtaining health care. Other difficulties include unfamiliarity with U.S. health care, discrimination, and sociocultural differences. When Hispanic immigrants do access preventive resources, the quality is threatened by the language barrier, misunderstanding in the patient-provider relationship, and a shortage of providers. Removing the obstacles to accessible and quality preventive care for Hispanic immigrants will require concentrated, culturally-specific efforts from community health workers, providers, medical educators, and government administrators. Prevention of chronic disease in the Hispanic immigrant population is justifiable from public health, economic, and ethical points-of-view.