Giving Compass' Take:

• Ariel Gelrud Shiro and Richard V. Reeves unpack health and healthcare access challenges that Latinos in the U.S. face and offer policy solutions.  

• What role can you play in increasing access to healthcare for those who have been excluded from the system? 

• Read about the relationship between racial equity and healthcare

The Latino community has been disproportionally affected by COVID-19, with almost three times as many cases per head among Latinos than among whites, and a hospitalization rate 4.6 times higher. But the specific challenges faced by Latinos in terms of health outcomes and healthcare access long predate the pandemic.

Latinos are the second-fastest-growing racial/ethnic group in the country and they are diverse in many regards. As a whole, Latinos suffer from poorer health on many measures. At the same time, they are less likely to have access to high-quality care. Improving Latino health will require concerted policy intervention on both fronts.

One in two Latinos will develop diabetes over their lifetime. Latinos are at a 66% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and once diagnosed, have worse outcomes than non-Hispanic whites. Diabetes often brings mental health problems in its wake: one in five diabetics have depressive symptoms. But Latinos are also less likely to receive treatment for depression, anxiety, and other behavioral issues than their white counterparts.

Health and healthcare have a two-way relationship. Poor healthcare leads to poor health, which then makes healthcare more expensive and less accessible. The Affordable Care Act has narrowed racial gaps in access to healthcare, but Latinos are still nearly 3 times more likely to be uninsured than non-Hispanic whites.

Policies for improving Latino health vary in scope. Some address systemic issues that affect Americans’ health and healthcare at a national level. Others promote community-level efforts that target Latino populations. Here are some ideas:

  • Expand Medicaid
  • National tax on sugary drinks
  • Therapy for all
  • Promotores de salud (community health workers)
  • Healthcare for undocumented immigrants

Read the full article about access to healthcare for Latinos by Ariel Gelrud Shiro and Richard V. Reeves at Brookings.