An examination of sociocultural factors associated with health and health care seeking among Latina immigrants

J Immigr Minor Health. 2006 Oct;8(4):377-85. doi: 10.1007/s10903-006-9008-8.


The purpose of this study was to examine the sociocultural factors associated with health maintenance and health care seeking among Latina immigrants. Data were collected from eight focus groups with 54 Latina immigrants between the ages of 19 and 62 (M=29.3+/-9.34). The PEN-3 model provided the framework for the study. Most of the participants came from Mexico; 46% had not completed high school; 85.2% had been in the United States for less than 7 years, and 73.6% reported not having health insurance coverage. Participants identified both positive and negative perceptions, enablers, and nurturers associated with health maintenance and health care seeking. Participants acknowledged the importance of physical, mental, and spiritual health and what they should do to be healthy. Despite such knowledge, they tended to engage in unhealthy behaviors due to a variety of nonstructural barriers such as lack of time, "tradition," and procrastination. They tended to use alternative/complementary medicine first, and then seek medical help if these practices are not effective. Many women believe that they do not have control over their own health attributing this lack of control to the "system." Participants also mentioned structural barriers to seeking health care such as lack of transportation, lack of proper documentation, lack of health insurance, language barriers, long waiting time at the clinics, and lack of knowledge on where to go for affordable care. Our study suggests that there are important structural and nonstructural barriers that hinder health maintenance and care seeking. The findings also lend support to the PEN-3 model, and suggest that positive perceptions, enablers, and nurturers associated with health maintenance and health care seeking, if properly reinforced, can counterbalance negative perceptions, enablers and nurturers in this population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation*
  • Adult
  • Alabama / epidemiology
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data
  • Emigration and Immigration / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Behavior / ethnology*
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Hispanic or Latino / education
  • Hispanic or Latino / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology*
  • Social Class
  • Social Justice
  • Social Perception
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Women's Health / ethnology*