Hispanic Older Couple
August 9, 2023

Hispanic Heritage Month: Culturally Sensitive Interactions to Overcome Disparities

Hispanic Heritage Month: Culturally Sensitive Interactions to Overcome Disparities

By Colleen Scott, NYSOFA Advocacy Specialist

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15 to October 15. While this is a time to celebrate the unique culture, language, and customs of a population which accounts for 19% of New York State, it is also a time to direct our focus on issues of concern for this population. 

Health disparities disproportionately burden Hispanics, who can be of any race and/or ethnicity. (For background on the difference between the terms "Hispanic" and "Latino," read our Five Questions with Doris Karpeh-Diaz of Centro De Amigos.) A lack of culturally and linguistically appropriate services exacerbate the existing gaps, coupled with generations of cultural bias and inequality that have created poorer health outcomes. To address these concerns, The Hispanic Federation has recommended increasing the number of culturally sensitive providers, decreasing transportation barriers, and increasing translation services, particularly in health care environments, as well as increasing technology literacy and access to internet as critical steps to addressing the current gaps.

Additionally, the Hispanic Federation notes the importance of culturally appropriate food and nutrition programs to address food insecurity in this population.

Health Disparities

Culturally Sensitive Interactions

“Many individuals in the Hispanic culture have a present time orientation which may impede preventative or follow up care,” explain diversity experts in A Pocket Guide for Health Care Professionals, published by the Joint Commission. The Joint Commission also emphasizes the importance of explaining the necessity of a course of action (example: the need to finish antibiotics after symptoms have disappeared.)

Also, the Joint Commission warns against discounting a concern because of the way it is expressed:  “Do not make the mistake of stereotyping Hispanic patients as ‘loud’ and thus ignore a real medical problem.”

In some cultures where family is highly valued, a large number of relatives may be present for appointments. Be respectful of the person’s wishes for who they would like included in interactions.

The above are a few examples. More information can be found in A Pocket Guide for Health Care Professionals published by the Joint Commission.

Other Demographic Information