Hispanic Heritage Month, Health Disparities, and NIDILRR Research: How are they connected?

For the end of Hispanic Heritage Month, we would like to share some information about health disparities experienced by Hispanics/Latinos with disabilities and how the NIDILRR community has worked to end those disparities. Disability affects every race and ethnic group, including those that are considered underserved or disadvantaged. Disadvantages such as low employment, lower wages, and lack of access to health care may lead people with disabilities in the Hispanic/Latino community to experience poorer health than individuals in other communities. The prevalence of disability does vary across racial and ethnic groups. According to the 2010 US Census, 17.8% of Hispanics/Latinos reported having a disability and are second to the 22.2% of African Americans that have disabilities. Causes of health disparities for Hispanics/Latinos with disabilities include socioeconomic factors, barriers in the social and built environment, access to preventive health-care services, and access to affordable health insurance. About 15.3% of all Hispanics/Latinos in the US have some type of disability and are affected by what has been labeled as “preventable causes of disability.”

We have a clearer picture of health disparities, thanks to research in statistics and demographics driven, in part, by laws like the Affordable Care Act. For example, the data from the 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Systems shows that about 50% of Hispanics/Latinos with a disability rated their health status as fair or poor, in comparison with the 41.5% of non-Hispanic, white people with disabilities. According to the 2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report, Hispanics are diagnosed with conditions like diabetes at nearly double the rate of non-Hispanic whites, and those with peripheral arterial disease and diabetes are more likely to have an amputation due to their conditions than non-Hispanic whites.

Age-related and non-preventable disabilities, such as intellectual and developmental disabilities, also impact the Hispanic/Latino community differently. For example, life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has gone up to 60 years on average, but researchers have found that life expectancy for Hispanics with Down syndrome is much shorter. Hispanics aging into disability also experience more health problems and limitations than non-Hispanic whites. One study from the “Assets in Health Dynamics of the Oldest Old” found that nearly 17% of older Hispanics/Latinos over the age of 70 had lost their ability to perform personal tasks such as eating and that 23% of older Hispanics/Latinos were more likely than whites to have difficulty performing household tasks such as preparing meals.

How does NIDILRR help to close the gap? By funding projects such as:

We searched REHABDATA and found several articles that discuss disparities and Hispanics with disabilities and disparities and Latinos with disabilities. Here is just a sample:

  • Racial-ethnic disparities in outpatient mental health visits to U.S. physicians, 1993-2008 (J68127) discusses a study that looked at the racial-ethnic differences in the use of mental health treatment for a wide range of disorders. The study found that visit prevalence ratios for Hispanics for any disorder were .58 for Hispanics. The study also found that Hispanics were treated less frequently for several disorders than whites. These disorders include bipolar 1, impulse control, autism spectrum, and personality disorders. However, they were treated more frequently for drug use disorders.
  • Cardiometabolic changes and disparities among persons with spinal cord injury: A 17-year cohort study (J68672) discusses a study that identified the significance of the changes of the biomarkers in diabetes and cardiometabolic syndrome in people aging with spinal cord injury (SCI). The study found that the biomarkers were related to the demographics of race/ethnicity and gender. The findings of the study suggest that guidelines for clinical practice need to be individualized for women and Hispanics.
  • Racial and ethnic disparities in employment outcomes for persons with traumatic brain injury: A longitudinal investigation 1-5 years after injury (J63750) describes a study that analyzed the differences in competitive employment rates in Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics with traumatic brain injury (TBI) at several intervals after injury. The study found that the odds of competitive employment were significantly higher for Whites at 1, 2, and 5 years after injury in comparison to African Americans and were also higher for whites after 1 and 2 years after injury in comparison to Hispanics. However, the researchers did not find that changes in employment rates over time were hugely different among race/ethnicity groups.

If you would like to learn more about Hispanic Heritage Month, visit our blog posts that discuss Hispanic/Latino Paralympic athletes and what some organizations have been doing to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. You can also search REHABDATA to find articles in our collection about disparities and Hispanics/Latinos with disabilities.

About mpgarcia

I'm the Bilingual Information/Media Specialist at NARIC.
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