Report: Latinos rely on news for health info

Lilianna Oustinovskaya

A report released Aug.13 by the Pew Hispanic Center and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that members of the Latino community are increasingly relying on media for health care information, rather than consulting health care providers.

The report entitled, ‘Hispanics and Health Care in the United States: Access, Information and Knowledge,’ was written after a bilingual telephone survey of 4,013 adults 18 years of age and older was conducted last year.

The researchers claim was to gauge the various health concerns of the diverse Hispanic community nationwide.

Of the 83 percent that reported receiving health information from media, with television the primary source, 79 percent indicated that they have acted on the information received. Furthermore, 64 percent report that watching television has helped change their attitudes about diet and exercise.

‘There is not a lot of research on a national level on this specific group. Unfortunately, we are unable to compare our data with other studies. This report is innovative and remarkable in showing how powerful the media impact can be,’ said Gretchen Livingston, PhD, a senior researcher who co-authored the report.

‘Especially the role of television as a dominant source for health information is surprising. The fact that much of what is aired is not coming from licensed health care providers is a cause for concern,’ said Livingston.

Understanding the unique concerns of the Hispanic community in accessing health care information is critical in helping provide accurate solutions, researchers wrote.

The Hispanic population in the U.S. is now estimated to be around 45 million and growing each day.

Various socio-economic inequality factors contribute to members of the Latino community not receiving constant, or any, type of medical care.

The research suggests that a lack of proper documentation, no health insurance and a language barrier are the most common reasons individuals do not receive traditional health care.

In a profile of respondents who stated that they lacked a usual health care provider, 69 percent were male. Of the uninsured 41 percent are 18-29 years of age, 43 percent are 30-49 years of age.

The survey covered a broad spectrum of age, country of origin and citizenship status. Of the many countries included in the survey, 69 percent that lack a usual healthcare provider are from Mexico.

‘Many within the Raza community come from a low socio-economic status and often work all day, which makes watching a health report on the Spanish language news channels all they have time for,’ said Alexis Montoya, a double major in Child and Adolescent Development and Chicana/o studies, and chair of MEChA de CSUN.

‘For many the language barrier and a lack of education prevent them from receiving the health care they need. They just don’t have the resources, and they know that they can’t afford to get sick,’ said Montoya.

‘The important thing is to promote education within the communities about proper diet and lifestyle choices. To help people understand, especially the younger population, that changing the way we eat, like farmer’s markets as alternatives to fast-food restaurants, are not as expensive as they think and better for them,’ said Montoya.

The research also found that one in 12 Latinos born in the United States use some type of folk medicine.

‘Many people still visit folk healers because for one thing they are cheaper than hospitals, and they speak the same language. They are familiar with them but unfortunately, just as with television, they receive a lot of misinformation,’ said Rudolph Acuna, a professor in the Chicana/o studies department.

‘There are serious health concerns from diabetes to alcoholism, that must be addressed responsibly, and the media won’t do it, it has to be community leaders and organizations,’ said Acuna.