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BOSTON — A new NPR/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard School of Public Health poll released Tuesday found that Latinos in America see diabetes as the biggest health problem for their own families.
Nearly 1-in-5 (19%) Latinos said diabetes is the biggest health problem facing their families. The next most cited problem, cancer, is mentioned by just 1-in-20 Latinos (5%). Diabetes was the biggest health problem reported by both immigrant (16%) and non-immigrant Latinos (22%).
"These findings are surprising," stated Robert Blendon, Richard L. Menschel Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health. "Previous polls have shown that Latinos see cancer as the most important health problem facing the country. But when asked about their own families, Latinos cite diabetes as the biggest problem."
Researchers have long cited diabetes as a threat for the nation's Latino population. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hispanic adults are 1.7 times more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to have been diagnosed with diabetes by a physician, and 1.5 times more likely to die from diabetes.
Prior studies have shown that obesity rates among immigrants increase as their duration of residence in the U.S. increases, and suggest that this may be attributable in part to changes in lifestyle, including unhealthy diet. However, the poll suggests that Latino immigrants generally do not perceive their diets as less healthy in the U.S. About 4-in-10 (38%) immigrants said their diet is healthier in the United States, and about the same number (39%) sees their diet about as healthy. Only 1-in-5 (21%) see their diet as less healthy.
Cuban immigrants are significantly more likely to see their diet as more healthy in the U.S. (60%) than are immigrants of Dominican (37%), Mexican (36%) or South American (21%) heritage.
Among Latinos who have received medical care during the past twelve months, about one in five (19%) rate the health services they received as fair or poor. Among Latino groups, those reporting care was fair or poor range from 24% among Latinos of Mexican heritage to 7% among those of Cuban ancestry.
Over half of all Latinos (52%) are not confident that they would have enough money or health insurance to pay for a major illness.