Hispanics and Health Care Information: English or Spanish?

May 26

Well, unfortunately there is no simple answer to this very popular question.  But a new research report conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Research Fund titled Hispanics and Health Care in the United States: Access, Information and Knowledge, sheds some light by addressing the Hispanic population health information needs.  The report considers key factors that make this growing community so diverse and complex, including access to medical insurance, number of years living in the US (including country of origin), age, gender, and language preferences, among other things.  Also, the report goes a step further than just asking for information sources, it shows how the information consumed by Hispanics, especially from the media, produces behavior changes.

Some perspective:  Why should we target Hispanics with health care information?

It is almost a standard practice for government agencies to include a Hispanic component into their social marketing campaigns, not only because of the rapid growth of this community but because of certain chronic conditions that could threaten the overall health of our society in decades to come. Latinos will account for most of the U.S. population growth through 2050.  Presently, according to the report, Hispanics have a lower prevalence of many conditions than the U.S. population as a whole, but they have a higher prevalence of diabetes than non-Hispanic whites.  Also, their rates of overweight and obese adults are higher than those of non-Hispanic whites.   According to the Center for Disease Control, the proportion of Hispanics who report that they have no usual place to receive health care is more than double that of non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks.

An important strategy to reduce chronic illness and the costs associated with it is through prevention via regular monitoring and educational initiatives such as the ones we conduct in our social marketing practice.

Where Hispanics Get Health Care Information?

Seventy-one percent of Latinos received health information from a medical professional in the past year, but 83 percent got health or health care information from the media (see accompanying Table  1 below) with television being the dominant source.

Table 1

English-language media or En Español?

When it comes to language preferences, women are more likely than men to get their health information in Spanish.  Also, the higher the educational level and assimilation to the US, the more the chances Hispanics will consume media in English or both. People with less than a high school diploma were more likely to get their information in Spanish (56 percent from television, 64 percent from radio) compared to those with at least some college education (17 percent from television, 20 percent from radio).  Table 2 shows the differences in language preferences by medium.

Table 2

Furthermore, this report shows that 79 percent of respondents who received health or health care information from the media acted upon that information. The media’s impact is strongest in producing reported changes in how Hispanics think about diet and exercise. Younger Latinos and women are more receptive to these types of changes than are older Hispanics or men.  Table 3 shows in what manner the information from the media impacted their behavior change.

Table 3

The report also shows that Latinos whose primary language is Spanish are more likely to ask questions to health care professionals as a result of media coverage than are English speakers, pointing to the important role played by the Spanish-language media.

So…English or Spanish?

When asked by a client if their health education campaign should target Hispanics in English or Spanish, explain to them that the selection of the language depends on the specific target audience they are trying to reach. Refer back to the report referenced above to refresh your memory of “who is doing what” among Hispanics and you may want to send your client the report to back up your well informed argument.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 26th, 2010 at 5:14 pm and is filed under Public Health, Research + Insights, Social Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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