Misinformation, Lack of Access to Care Associated with Higher Rates of Diabetes Among Latino Elderly
Lack of access to care and poor information are linked to a higher rate of diabetes among elderly Latinos in Los Angeles County, according to a UCLA Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture study released yesterday. The Los Angeles Times reports that in 1997, UCLA researchers surveyed 602 Latino and 577 non-Latino white Los Angeles County residents ages 65 to 74. The survey included both Latino immigrants and those born in the United States. According to the survey, 26% of Latinos had been diagnosed with diabetes, compared to 15% of non-Latino whites. The study also found that, based on information from death certificates, the mortality rate from diabetes is twice as high for Latino elderly as for white elderly. The Times reports that many health experts say Latinos, particularly Mexican Americans, are more likely to develop diabetes for reasons that include genetic differences, a more sedentary lifestyle and higher rates of obesity. The UCLA study identified additional social factors, including the following:
- Only 71% of elderly Latino immigrants are enrolled in Medicare, compared to 95% of whites and 89% of U.S.-born Latinos.
- Forty-two percent of immigrants surveyed mistakenly believed that citizenship was a requirement for Medicare eligibility; instead, any legal, permanent resident may be eligible.
- Nearly 25% of Latino immigrants surveyed did not know Medicare was available, while another 13% thought Medicare was a welfare program and were hence reluctant to enroll.
- More than 10% of Latino immigrants surveyed reported difficulty completing the Medicare application form.
Center Director Dr. David Hayes-Bautista said that the goal of the study is to prompt health care providers to offer bilingual services and information about health care and publicly funded coverage.
Responding to the study's findings, Tenet HealthSystem, the largest hospital network in Southern California, said it plans to improve access for its Latino clients. Tenet Senior Vice President of Operations for Southern California Gus Valdespino said, "We serve such a (large) Hispanic community at our hospitals that it is important for us to improve their access to health care." Tenet will begin offering bilingual counseling and information on Medicare and Social Security at its hospitals and community centers, as well as Spanish-language lectures at local churches and community centers. In addition, Tenet will establish a program for physicians, patients and family members to help diagnose and treat diabetes in the Latino community (Hayasaki, Los Angeles Times, 7/11).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.