Health Conditions That Disproportionately Affect the Hispanic Community

Written by Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant

In the U.S., 52 million people are Hispanic, making this the second-largest ethnic group in the country. Because of genetics, health care access, economics, cultural and social factors, the Hispanic community is at a higher risk of some health conditions compared to other groups. Here are four of the most common conditions found more commonly amongst Hispanics than other populations.

1) Diabetes

Among adults in the U.S., the prevalence of diabetes among Hispanics is 10.5%, compared to a prevalence of 6.8% among non-Hispanic whites.

The increased risk of diabetes in the Hispanic community can be partly explained by genetics since this condition can be hereditary. Diet also increases the risk of diabetes. Since many traditional Hispanic foods are high in fat and carbohydrates, people whose diets are high in these foods have a higher risk of diabetes. Obesity is another risk factor commonly found in the Hispanic community. For instance, of all Hispanic women who live in the U.S., 78% qualify as overweight or obese, compared to 64% of non-Hispanic white women.

Because of higher obesity rates, economic factors, lack of health insurance, language barriers, and health care disparities, diabetic Hispanic patients are also more prone to diabetes complications, including kidney and eye diseases.

2) Chronic liver disease

Chronic liver disease is twice as common among Hispanics compared to non-Hispanic whites. Several factors contribute to this discrepancy. Exposure to the Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C viruses can cause chronic liver disease. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is often caused by obesity and a high-fat diet, is another risk factor for chronic liver disease. Alcohol abuse also contributes to chronic liver conditions like fatty liver disease and cirrhosis.

It is important to note that these risk factors vary among Hispanics depending on their country of origin and their race. For example, white Hispanic men have a higher incidence of cirrhosis than other men, whereas Black Hispanic men have lower rates of cirrhosis than their male counterparts.

3) Hypertension

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is another condition that disproportionately affects the Hispanic community. And of all adults in the U.S. who have hypertension, Hispanic patients are more likely to have hypertension that’s poorly controlled.

Among the Hispanic community, Black Hispanics have higher rates of hypertension than white Hispanics. Risk factors for hypertension include a genetic predisposition, obesity, a high-sodium diet, excessive alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, and tobacco use.

4) COVID-19

 COVID-19 is another condition that has disproportionately affected Hispanics in the U.S.  Hispanics have had higher rates of COVID-19 cases and COVID-19 hospitalizations than their non-Hispanic white counterparts. Also, while Hispanics make up about 19% of the total U.S. population, they accounted for 41% of COVID-related deaths in 2020.

Hispanics have been impacted more by COVID-19 for several reasons. First, many work essential jobs that can’t be done remotely, including construction, childcare, manufacturing, health care, housekeeping, and food preparation. 

Also, due to immigration status and economic factors, Hispanics are less likely to have health insurance than other groups in the U.S.

And Hispanics are more likely to live in multigenerational homes, where people who work essential jobs aren’t able to isolate from their family members, and therefore are more likely to transmit the virus to relatives who may be at higher risk of COVID-19 complications due to their age or underlying health conditions.

Being vaccinated against COVID-19 is one of the most important ways to stop the spread of COVID-19 amongst the Hispanic community and improve the health and wellbeing of tens of millions of people.

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Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/hispanic-health/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/investigations-discovery/hospitalization-death-by-race-ethnicity.html

https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/hispanic-diabetes.html