ICBioethics Blog 

What Does CDC’s Report on Comparative Health Stats for Hispanics Tell Us?

Written by: Leah Jeunnette Ph.D(c)

Last week, the CDC published a comprehensive report on Hispanic health, one of the first focusing solely on Hispanic individuals. It looked at Pew’s health and disease trends in the population, making comparisons to non-Hispanic whites on leading causes of death, disease prevalence, access to healthcare, habits, etc. Some results were no surprise: Hispanics tend to experience lower socioeconomic status and fewer have health insurance. Other results caught attention: lower mortality rates, higher tobacco rates in young Hispanics, lower rates of cancer and heart disease, higher for diabetes and chronic liver disease.

One of the most compelling parts of the report compared non-US born Hispanics to those born in the US. Sadly, US-born have higher rates of smoking, obesity, hypertension, heart disease, and cancer than non-US born Hispanics. That alone demands more research.

(Important note: the Hispanic population averages 15 years younger than non-Hispanic whites—hence, timely intervention could prove significant.)

As ethicists, what can we take away from this report?

1. Health and disease affect us all. While the ranking varies between races (13 out of 15 match for Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites), we share the looming specter of serious disease (cancer, diabetes, obesity) in this highly developed nation.

2. American-born Hispanics are tending to reflect the health trends of other American-born ethnicities for smoking, mortality, and morbidity rates.

3. Health literacy and access to healthcare are critical—often a challenge for individuals in lower socioeconomic groups. And although Hispanic health rates seem better in comparison (for now), they need good, affordable, continuous health care and preventative medical services.

4. However, we need to acknowledge that higher socioeconomic status and access to health care and insurance don’t guarantee better outcomes. It remains more complex—money alone cannot resolve this.

5. Action plans need to follow these analyses. If these trends continue, given the issues in the aging white population, we could expect Hispanics to catch up with and possibly exceed the non-Hispanic disease prevalence as that population ages and as more are US-born.

How do we as a society propose to address this problem that is bound to grow?

We all want (no, need!) a healthier citizenry, regardless of demographic make up. We want justice: better health outcomes for all in future years. We want a plan.

Mitch Gennuso