Latinos & Health Care

The Latino community continues to grow as a percentage of the U.S. population.

The Census Bureau estimates there were roughly 63.7 million Hispanics in the U.S. as of 2022, a new high.  They represent up to 19% of the nation’s population,1 and according to U.S. Census Bureau projections, Latinos are expected to be 21% by 2030.2 By 2040, one of every four Americans will be of Latin-American culture.3

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Yet, Latinos are not represented in the physician workforce at rates comparable to their share of the general population. For example:

  • In the 2014 to 2018 period, only 6 percent of doctors in America identified as Latino, Latina or Latine, according to one recent analysis from the University of California, Los Angeles.4 Another analysis, conducted by the American Association of Medical Colleges using 2022 survey data, found similar disparities.5
  • Currently, only 5.2% of U.S. optometrists are Latino, according to research from the career resource site Zippia.6
  • For the 2023-2024 cycle, the Optometry Centralized Application Service (OptomCAS), a service of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) shows a decline in the number of Hispanic/Latino applicants to US Schools of Optometry from the previous year. 

Latinos and Health Care

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According to the National Eye Institute, the Latino population has some of the highest rates of eye disease and visual impairment caused by eye diseases like diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma, and a significant number may be unaware of their eye disease.7

Furthermore, when it comes to navigating the health care system, a recent Pew Research Center analysis8 shows:

  • 44% of Hispanic adults surveyed say that more communication problems from language or cultural differences is a major reason why Hispanic people have generally worse health outcomes than other adults in the U.S.
  • Hispanic adults report communication challenges in health care settings; just under half (46%) say they have a close friend or family member who needs a Spanish-speaking health care provider or translator.
  • About two-thirds of recent Hispanic immigrants say they prefer to see a Hispanic health care provider.

Physicians who speak the same native language and can relate to the cultural experiences of their patients have been linked to higher patient outcomes.9

These findings demonstrate an ever-increasing need for Latino (and Spanish-speaking) Doctors of Optometry, Opticians, other eye care professionals, and products that specifically address the needs of the Latino community.

References

  1. Who is Hispanic? Pew Research Center https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2023/09/05/who-is-hispanic/ Accessed November 14, 2023.
  2. 2020 census results. US Census Bureau US Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration, US Census Bureau (2021). Available at www.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial-census/decade/2020/2020-census-main.html.
  3. “Connecting Across Cultures: How to Reach Out to Hispanics,” Review of Optometry,    https://www.reviewofoptometry.com/article/connecting-across-cultures-how-to-reach-out-to-hispanics). Accessed November 8, 2023
  4. Yohualli B. Anaya, MD, MPH1 Paul T. Hsu, MPH, Ph.D2 Seira Santizo Greenwood, BA3 David E. Hayes-Bautista, Ph.D4, Improvement needed in Latina Physician Representation: Implications for Medical Education, Training, and Policy  https://latino.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/Improvement-Needed-in-Latina-Physician-Representation_UCLA_LPPI_8.01.2023.pdf
  5. 2022 Physician Specialty Data Report Executive Summary, American Association of Medical Colleges, https://www.aamc.org/data-reports/data/2022-physician-specialty-data-report-executive-summary  Accessed November 10, 2023
  6. Optometrist Demographics and Statistics in the US, https://www.zippia.com/optometrist-jobs/demographics/ Accessed November 8, 2023
  7. National Eye Institute, https://www.nei.nih.gov/about/news-and-events/news/us-latinos-have-high-rates-eye-disease-and-visual-impairment Accessed November 8, 2023
  8. “Hispanic Americans’ Trust in and Engagement with Science,” Survey conducted Nov. 30-Dec. 12, 2021, Pew Research Center, https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2022/06/14/hispanic-americans-experiences-with-health-care/  Accessed November 10, 2023
  9. Takeshita J, Wang S, Loren AW, et al. Association of Racial/Ethnic and Gender Concordance Between Patients and Physicians With Patient Experience Ratings. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(11):e2024583. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.24583  https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2772682