September National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month and Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15th through October 15th). According to the National Spinal Cord Association there are approximately 200,000 people living with spinal cord injuries (SCI) in the United States. According to The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation’s Paralysis Resource Center paralysis is disproportionately distributed among minority communities, including African Americans and Native Americans, when compared to ethnicity data from the United States Census. Specifically, 12.7 percent of those who reported being paralyzed due to SCI identified themselves as Hispanic, approximately the same percentage as those who reported being Hispanic in the United States Census (http://tinyurl.com/kjxl8lv).
Individuals with SCI who are Hispanic or Latino experience the same issues facing all people with SCI: depression, bladder/bowl management, autonomic dysreflexia, pressure sores, and sexual and reproductive health among others. Just as the dynamics of how SCI affects the physical body are unique to the specific type of injury and person there are also varying differences in how an individual manages the emotional aspects of their injury. It is important for Hispanic/Latino with SCI to seek services and obtain information geared toward a cultural competence prospective.
According to the Office of Minority Health cultural competency refers to integrated patterns of human behavior that include the language, thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, and institutions of racial, ethnic, religious, or social groups working while having the capacity to function effectively as an individual and an organization within the context of the cultural beliefs, behaviors, and needs presented by consumers and their communities (http://tinyurl.com/992737x). In reference to health care and rehabilitative services cultural competency refers to the integration of unique cultural differences in beliefs, attitudes, which surround health, healing, wellness, illness, disease, and delivery of health services to create a unique and positive effect on patient care and delivery that is respectful and responsive to the health beliefs, practices, and cultural and linguistic needs of diverse patients (http://tinyurl.com/l7gb4zb).
Individuals who are Hispanic/Latino have unique cultural experiences, values, beliefs, and attitudes toward disability, health care, and rehabilitative services. By working with a health care provider or treatment team using a cultural competency approach this will ensure that not only the medical needs of SCI are being met but personal and cultural needs as well.