Glycemic control in English- vs Spanish-speaking Hispanic patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus

Arch Intern Med. 2001 Jan 8;161(1):77-82. doi: 10.1001/archinte.161.1.77.


Background: Hispanic individuals compose the fastest growing minority group in the United States, yet little is known about how language impacts their health care. The primary objective of this study was to determine whether the inability to speak English adversely affected glycemic control in Hispanic patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Methods: This retrospective cohort study selected 183 Hispanic patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus aged 35 to 70 years from a public health care system; patients were Spanish-speaking (SS) only, and control patients were English-speaking (ES) or bilingual. Clinical information was collected via telephone survey, and data on health care use, diagnosis, and glycosylated hemoglobin A(1c) (HbA(1c)) values were obtained from administrative and laboratory information systems.

Results: Values of HbA(1c) for SS (mean, 9.1%; range, 5.0%-15.3%) and ES (mean, 9.0%; range, 4.9%-16.2%) patients with diabetes mellitus and the total number of hospitalizations related and unrelated to diabetes mellitus did not differ (P =.86). Spanish-speaking patients had a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus for fewer years than ES patients (8.2 and 11.2 years, respectively; P =. 01). Spanish-speaking patients were less likely to understand their prescriptions; 22% of SS patients reported no comprehension vs 3% of ES patients (P =.001). There was a trend toward decreased prevalence of insulin use among SS patients compared with ES patients (30% vs 42%, respectively; P =.07).

Conclusions: Glycemic control in Hispanic patients was not related to their ability to speak English. This finding may be explained by a high degree of language concordance between patients and providers.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Communication Barriers*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy*
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A / metabolism*
  • Hispanic Americans*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Glycated Hemoglobin A