The University Record, August 12, 2002

Experts say healthcare must do more for Latino children

By Colleen Newvine

News and Information Services

In many measures of health, Latino children fare far worse than any other group of American children, according to a panel of public and environmental health experts.

In a paper released in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Latino Consortium of the Center for Child Health Research said an increase in the number of Latino health care professionals, inclusion of Latino children in scientific studies and other changes would improve the situation. The panel was created by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the nation’s largest and most prestigious organization of pediatricians.

“This report does very significant service by highlighting the great disparities in health that exist between Latino children and other children in this country and then in making evidence-based recommendations in addressing those disparities,” said Dr. Philip Landrigan, a leading researcher in children’s health and head of the Center for Children’s Health and the Environment at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

The consortium identified several factors that contribute to poor health outcomes for Latino children. It pointed to cases in which non-English speakers are excluded arbitrarily from scientific study enrollment, leading to distortions in study outcomes and to false claims that studies are ethnically or racially diverse when only Blacks and whites are represented. The group also highlighted cases in which culture and language barriers prevented adequate access and care.

“If you take the case of AIDS/ HIV prevention, there are very few interventions that have been tested to see if they are effective with this population,” said Antonia M. Villarruel, associate professor at the U-M School of Nursing. “It’s a group that’s at risk, but nobody is targeting this population.”

Among the other areas covered by the consortium were the prevalence of obesity and diabetes among Latino children, poor environmental health and high rates of school dropout.

Dr. Glenn Flores, a pediatrician at the Boston University School of Medicine and chair of the 13-person consortium, said Latino children would suffer negative outcomes if health care policies remained as they are.

Latino children “are going to continue to receive an inferior quality of care,” Flores said. “They’ll continue to face substantial barriers to health care and they’ll have difficulty accessing the system—from obtaining health insurance to getting a regular doctor.”