Latino adults, particularly men, were less likely than all adults in the United States to report seeing a health care professional in the previous year, according to a 2022 Pew Research Center survey.
Systemic health inequities, lack of insurance, cost of care, cultural and language barriers and immigration status are some reasons Latinos may avoid scheduling doctor visits, which can lead to long-term medical conditions, according to an article by the American Heart Association (AHA).
“Forgoing needed medical care when needed or not having access to preventive medicine can have disastrous consequences in health, even in the short term,” César Caraballo-Cordovez, MD, a postdoctoral associate at the Yale School of Medicine Center for Outcomes Research & Evaluation, told the AHA.
Medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure can go undetected for years while quietly harming one’s body and can lead to other health issues, including increased risk for heart disease and stroke. Ensuring that individuals have a health care provider and that they visit that provider regularly is important because early diagnosis is crucial when it comes to treating these conditions, Caraballo-Cordovez said.
Diana Sanchez, chair of the psychology department at Rutgers University, told the AHA that her research has shown that men with more traditional views of manliness, prevalent in the Latino community, often avoid routine medical screenings to preserve an image of masculinity, or machismo.
“Given the sort of emphasis on machismo culture in the Latinx community,” Sanchez said, “it’s not surprising that you might see Latino men particularly disinclined to seek medical care. They see it as a sign of weakness or vulnerability.”
Sanchez suggests increasing diversity within the medical field to accommodate the growing population of Latinos in the United States. Indeed, a recent study found that Black people live longer and experience lower rates of health disparities in counties with more Black doctors. The same is likely to be true for Latinos.
The U.S. Census estimates that Latinos could make up 28% of the U.S. population within 40 years; therefore, expanding insurance coverage for Latinos and improving their access to health care is essential, Caraballo said.