A Seventh-day Adventist Organization

Hispanic Heritage Month: Health Equity and the American Dream

By Ed McField - http://llusphhealthmgmt.wordpress.com

We are celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15 each year. Why Hispanic Heritage Month? There are a few who argue that we should not have Hispanic Heritage Month, African-American History Month, or any other race or culture-specific celebrations (with the exception of St. Patrick’s Day). Notwithstanding,  the US Congress saw fit to establish a time to recognize the rich culture, heritage, and contributions of Hispanics in the US.

The question is who are Hispanics or Latinos? Latinos come in all colors, sizes, shapes, languages, race, and ethnicity.  [ I recommend watching the series entitled "Latino-Americans" airing on PBS (see http://www.pbs.org/latino-americans/en/).] As of July 1, 2011, there are roughly 52.0 million Hispanics living in the United States, representing approximately 16.7% of the U.S. total population, making people of Hispanic origin the nation’s largest ethnic or race minority. Furthermore, the state with the largest Hispanic population is California (14.4 million). Viva California!

While we celebrate we are also reminded of some alarming trends. Researchers have examined, re-examined, and debated the Hispanic Paradox based on findings which suggest that recent Latino immigrants (regardless of income and despite having fewer resources or limited access to care) have a longer average life expectancy and are more likely to have healthy birth outcomes. However, once in the U.S., those health advantages erode. What happened to the American Dream? Additionally, studies indicate that the children of immigrants have even poorer health regarding certain cancer, diabetes, birth outcomes and heart disease. By the way, these findings seem to hold true for other immigrant groups. Is this the Sueño Americano?

The good news is that there is hope. Culture is increasingly being recognized as an important component in the delivery of quality health care. Furthermore, individual-level interventions have yielded positive results and we can continue to make dramatic progress through changes in systems and structures. Policy and community-level changes hold the promise to transform environments so that we have healthy communities that are supportive of healthy living. As public health practitioners we are called to be actively involved in shaping policies that help to raise the tide of opportunity for all and eliminate health disparities.  At Loma Linda University School of Public Health there must be a strong and unflinching commitment to health equity, informed not only by the values of the profession but also by the heritage as a faith-based institution.  During this Hispanic Heritage Month, we renew our commitment to equity, not only for Hispanics but for all people. Viva el Sueño Americano. Viva!


  • Are health disparities real, and even if real, why should we care? Are these disparities solely the result of poor individual choices?
  • What are some key regional health inequity issues and drivers?
  • If you had the resources, what policy or community-level change would you recommend or implement to promote health equity?


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