Building Knowledge of Minority Populations to Address Disparities in Health and Health Care

Field of Work: Research on health and health care disparities among Latinos and other minority groups

Problem Synopsis: Latinos are the nation's largest and fastest growing minority population, and they face substantial health disparities on the basis of country of birth, English-speaking ability, degree of assimilation and other sociocultural factors. However, most research does not distinguish among these subgroups. Other minority groups also face significant disparities and a lack of research. Relatively few researchers have been trained to examine the heterogeneity among these populations.

Synopsis of the Work: Researchers at the Pew Hispanic Center surveyed more than 4,000 individuals to learn how language, immigration status and other socioeconomic characteristics influence health in diverse Latino populations.

The University of California, Los Angeles, established a Network for Multicultural Research, assembling a national team of scholars to examine quality of care and health disparities, focusing on chronic diseases, among minority groups such as Latinos and American Indians. As of August 2011, researchers had published 46 peer-reviewed articles and one book chapter, with six articles and one book chapter in press.

Key Findings

  • Among the survey and research findings:

    • Almost three quarters of Latino adults had a usual place where they seek medical help or advice, while 27 percent did not.
    • Slightly less than one-quarter of Latinos who have received health care in the past five years reported receiving poor-quality treatment.
    • Undocumented Latinos are less likely to have health insurance, to receive preventive services, to receive health information from doctors or to rate their health care as excellent or good.
    • Disparities in quality of care and treatment for specific diseases are widespread among Latinos, some Latino subgroups, and Blacks. Health indicators are worsening among some subpopulations, such as Mexican Americans, American Indians and Alaskan natives.