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Latino language and subgroup data are lacking but key to addressing health disparities

Latinos are the largest racial and ethnic group in the United States, and they comprise two-thirds of Americans with limited English proficiency

Medica Research Institute

Minneapolis - Latinos are the largest racial and ethnic group in the United States, and they comprise two-thirds of Americans with limited English proficiency (LEP). Language and Latino subgroup data are critical for public health and social justice, but are not routinely collected.

Dr. Glenn Flores, Distinguished Chair of Health Policy Research at the Medica Research Institute, addresses these issues in the Journal of Healthcare, Science, and the Humanities in the article, "Getting the Data Right for Latinos: Appropriate Language and Subgroup Data are Critical for Public Health and Social Justice."

In the piece, Dr. Flores examines:

  • LEP prevalence among U.S. Latinos
  • How language barriers impact health care
  • LEP is the best measure for assessing language barriers
  • Language and LEP data in clinical settings and research
  • The importance of collecting data on Latino subgroups

"Language problems impact multiple aspects of healthcare, including access, health, service use, patient-clinician communication, satisfaction with care, quality, and patient safety," says Dr. Flores. "Limited English proficiency is the best measure of the impact of language on health care. But most hospitals and medical practices do not collect any language data and rarely collect LEP data, and no national surveys collect LEP data."

Dr. Flores (bio) highlights numerous studies and cases in the article that demonstrate the potent impact of language barriers on health. One study showed that Spanish-speaking LEP patients are at a twofold increased risk of serious medical events without an interpreter. These outcomes are illustrated by the case of an 18-year-old who was paralyzed due to misinterpretation of a single Spanish word, and the two-year-old taken from her mother's custody due to misinterpretation of two words about her fractured clavicle.

Latinos are the largest racial and ethnic minority group in America, numbering 56.6 million people and comprising 18 percent of the U.S. population. Failure to collect Latino subgroup data can obscure disparities that affect some subgroups more than others and make them more difficult to address.

"To ensure optimal health care quality and outcomes, ethical care, and equity, Latino subgroup data and LEP data should always be collected for all patients, national surveys, and research," says Dr. Flores.


Access the Fall 2016 issue of this journal at .

About the Medica Research Institute

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