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Many U.S. Hispanics Struggle With Health Care System

Doctors' office language woes one source of frustration, study finds

TUESDAY, Oct. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Geographic locale and language weigh heavily on U.S. Hispanics' ability to get good health care, a new study finds.

Many of the nation's 44.3 million Hispanics have difficulty navigating the health care system, say researchers reporting in the journal Health Services Research.

In this study, a team led by Robert Weech-Maldonado, an associate professor at the University of Florida, Gainesville, analyzed 2002 data on more than 125,000 people enrolled in Medicare managed plans.

Seven percent of the study participants were Hispanic.

Compared to whites, Spanish-speaking Hispanics reported less favorable experiences when talking with health care providers or getting help from office staff, the study found. This suggests that these patients face more language barriers in doctor's offices, hospitals and other clinical settings, Weech-Maldonado said.

The study did find that Spanish-speaking Hispanics had an easier time than English-speaking Hispanics in dealing with the managed care aspects of the health care system, such as getting needed care and dealing with customer service.

It also found that Spanish-speaking Hispanics in Florida reported experiences similar to or better than English-speaking Hispanics in all aspects of care. This was not true among Spanish-speaking Hispanics in California or the New York/New Jersey region.

The study findings suggest that health care providers need to provide interpreter services to patients "not only because it's the right thing to do, but because it can impact patient reports of care and ultimately can influence quality of care," Weech-Maldonado said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about Hispanic/Latino health.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Center for the Advancement of Health, news release, Oct. 9, 2007

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