LATINA HEALTH: Study Finds Limited Access to Care
A soon-to-be-released study by the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California reports that a variety of factors block Latinas' access to health care and coverage, and that the growing Latino population will soon make the situation even more dire. The report, "Ensuring Health Access for Latinas," finds that four interrelated factors have made Latinas in California "more likely to be without health insurance coverage than any other female group":
- Language: Nearly one-third of Latino households speak only Spanish, with the proportion much higher in some counties, yet "bilingual or multilingual services are not readily available within California's health care system";
- Education: Latinos' high dropout rate -- a majority of California Latinos do not complete high school -- makes it more difficult for them to "access health promotion and preventive health care information," or utilize school-based health clinics;
- Employment: Latinas are "overrepresented in low-skill, low-wage jobs, many of which do not provide employment-based health insurance" or sufficient income to buy private insurance coverage;
- Poverty: Twenty-three percent of Latinas have household incomes below the federal poverty level, and "[l]ow-income women have been found less likely to utilize health care services, particularly screening and preventive care, than women of higher socioeconomic" status.
- Medi-Cal: "Despite high levels of poverty," less than 25% of Latinas utilize Medi-Cal, despite the conventional wisdom that immigrants are more likely to utilize public assistance.
At Least You've Got Your Health
Latinas' impeded access to health care is partially offset by their general good health in relation the rest of the population. Latinas have an average life span 7.5 years longer than white females and 10 years longer than African-American females. However, in addition to increasingly "poorer health outcomes," there are several key areas where the health of Latinas lags. They are less likely to receive "screening for high blood pressure, breast or cervical cancer." They have -- along with African-American women -- the highest rates of HIV/AIDS, typically from heterosexual contact. Latinos have the second highest rate of incidence and mortality from diabetes. Finally, Latinas are less likely to receive prenatal care than the population at large. The study concludes that "more Latinas [are] working harder but [are] more at risk of having less access to health care." The Coalition "calls upon policymakers and our elected representatives to address long-standing Latina health care issues, address the inadequacies within the health care system and create an environment where all of California's diverse population enjoy the benefits of good health and well-being" (report, 1/27). The Coalition will officially release the report on Wednesday, Jan. 27, at a press conference at the State Capitol hosted by State Sen. Martha Escutia (D- Huntington Park) (LCHC release, 1/21). Click here for previous coverage of Latina health.