By Colleen Scott, NYSOFA’s Advocacy Specialist
September is National Hispanic Heritage Month. This ethnic group includes any person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.
According to the 2019 U.S. Census Bureau population estimate, there are 60.5 million Hispanics living in the United States. This group represents 18.4 percent of the U.S. total population. In 2019, among Hispanic subgroups, Mexicans ranked as the largest at 61.4 percent. Following this group are: Puerto Ricans (9.6 percent), Central Americans (9.8 percent), South Americans (6.4 percent), and Cubans (3.9 percent).
In 2019, states with the largest Hispanic populations were California, Texas, Florida, New York, Arizona, Illinois, New Jersey, Colorado, Georgia, New Mexico. In 2019, 30.8 percent of Hispanics were under age 18, compared to 18.6 percent of non-Hispanic whites.
Hispanic refers to a person who is from a Spanish-speaking country or is a descendant of someone who is from a Spanish-speaking country.
Latino/a or Latinx refers to a person who is from a country in Latin America or is a descendant of someone who is from Latin America.
What Aging Services Providers Can Do to Overcome Disparities
To help overcome language barriers, ensure that appropriate, trained, culturally competent staff or resources are available. Cultural considerations often play a role in decisions. Beyond literal interpretation or translation, it is also important to consider the way a message is conveyed.
Below are some ways that medical professionals have handled these issues:
- Mental health often has stigma attached to it. While patients may be reluctant to accept assistance for depression, your approach can make a difference. In a 2018 Commonwealth Fund report, one psychologist at a federally qualified health center advises providers to use language that normalizes behavioral health care. Says Dr. Jonathan Muther: “We just go in and say, ‘I am part of your care team, your primary care provider is going to work with physical needs. I would like to work on other aspects of your health including your mood and stress. Can I ask questions we ask all of our patients?’
- Studies show that Hispanics are statistically less likely than White patients to have documented their end-of-life wishes. In some cases, religious beliefs and distrust about physicians’ motives may complicate conversations about palliative and end-of-life care. According to José Mayorga, a cultural mediator who works in hospitals (also quoted in the Commonwealth Fund report): “If a doctor is not careful and says, ‘There is nothing else I can do,’ patients may think the doctor’s knowledge is at its limits and say, 'Let’s find a second opinion.' But if a doctor explains that all efforts to save the patient were done, it will ease the process.”
Did you know?
- The United States has no national language.
- 71.1 percent of Hispanics speak a language other than English at home.
- The Latino population is growing and is expected to reach 30 percent of the total U.S. population by 2050.
To learn more: