Hispanics or Latinos are the largest racial/ethnic minority population in the United States. Today, nearly 58 million people (or 18 percent) of Americans are of Hispanic or Latino origin, another 3.3 million are residents of Puerto Rico, U.S. territory. In western North Carolina, Marion and Morganton are on the list of North Carolina’s Top 10 cities with the largest Hispanic population.
Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month. The month is a dedicated time to celebrate and remember the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
Our Hispanic, Latino and Latina neighbors are rich in culture and when they can live their best and healthiest lives, we all experience even more the richness of their values and heritage to our society. As Mission Health observes National Hispanic Heritage Month, we recognize the health status and risks that impact our Hispanic, Latino and Latina communities in western North Carolina.
Heart disease and cancer are the two leading causes of death among Hispanics, accounting for about 2 of 5 deaths, which is about the same for white Americans. Hispanics have fewer deaths than whites among the 10 leading causes of death with three exceptions: Hispanics experience more deaths from diabetes, chronic liver disease and kidney diseases. Because of this, preventive screenings are especially important for Hispanic subgroups as they have different degrees of health risks:
- Mexicans and Puerto Ricans are about twice as likely as whites to die from diabetes
- Mexicans are nearly twice as likely as whites to die from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis
- 14 percent of Hispanics smoke compared to 24 percent of whites; however, smoking is high among Puerto Rican males (26 percent) and Cuban males (22 percent)
- Only about 29 percent of Cuban men and 49 percent of Cuban women get screened for colorectal cancer screening
- Hispanics are as likely as whites to have high blood pressure – Hispanic women with high blood pressure are twice as likely as Hispanic men to effectively manage it
When it comes to caring for our Hispanic and Latino population, two-way communication is an important part of each patient’s experience. Mission Health offers language services and interpreters, so when a patient prefers to speak Spanish, trained medical interpreters are available to assist.
The most important thing we can do to achieve health equity for all individuals is understand our diverse community and the unique needs of each population. Then, as a healthcare provider and as community members, we can help connect our Hispanic and Latino neighbors to healthcare services through education and conversation.
About Hispanic Heritage Month
The Hispanic Heritage observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week and was expanded in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. September 15 is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day (Día de la Raza) is the second Monday in October.