Language spoken and differences in health status, access to care, and receipt of preventive services among US Hispanics

Am J Public Health. 2008 Nov;98(11):2021-8. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2007.119008. Epub 2008 Sep 17.


Objectives: We examined self-reported health status, health behaviors, access to care, and use of preventive services of the US Hispanic adult population to identify language-associated disparities.

Methods: We analyzed 2003 to 2005 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data from 45 076 Hispanic adults in 23 states, who represented 90% of the US Hispanic population, and compared 25 health indicators between Spanish-speaking Hispanics and English-speaking Hispanics.

Results: Physical activity and rates of chronic disease, obesity, and smoking were significantly lower among Spanish-speaking Hispanics than among English-speaking Hispanics. Spanish-speaking Hispanics reported far worse health status and access to care than did English-speaking Hispanics (39% vs 17% in fair or poor health, 55% vs 23% uninsured, and 58% vs 29% without a personal doctor) and received less preventive care. Adjustment for demographic and socioeconomic factors did not mitigate the influence of language on these health indicators.

Conclusions: Spanish-language preference marks a particularly vulnerable subpopulation of US Hispanics who have less access to care and use of preventive services. Priority areas for Spanish-speaking adults include maintenance of healthy behaviors, promotion of physical activity and preventive health care, and increased access to care.

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System*
  • Chronic Disease / ethnology
  • Female
  • Health Behavior / ethnology*
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Hispanic or Latino / education
  • Hispanic or Latino / psychology
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Preventive Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Quality of Life
  • Self-Assessment
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vulnerable Populations