Background and objectives: More than 9 million Latino children currently live in the United States. Latinos will soon be the largest minority group in the country, but little is known about access barriers to health care faced by Latino children. We reviewed the literature to define specific barriers to care for Latino children, identify methodologic problems, and highlight the clinical and research implications of the identified barriers.
Methods: We did a MEDLINE search, using combinations of the key words Hispanic, children, and access. Study exclusion criteria included "not an original research article," "enrolled only adult subjects," "no separate data analysis for children," and "dental care focus."
Results: The search yielded 497 citations, of which 27 met the inclusion criteria. Of the 32 potential barriers identified, 21 had good supportive evidence. Lack of health insurance was a consistent barrier; recent data revealed that 26% of Latino children are uninsured, compared with 10% of white children and 14% of African-American children. Latino children also are at greater risk for episodic insurance coverage, low rates of private insurance, and loss of employee-based coverage. Parent beliefs about the etiology and treatment of their child's illness, use of home remedies, choice of sources of advice, and folk medicine practices may also influence how health care is obtained. Few data are available on differences in access among major Latino subpopulations, and no studies focused primarily on barriers as perceived by Latino parents. Evidence is equivocal or lacking that the following are barriers for Latino children: immigration status, duration of parent residency in the United States, and acculturation. Several barriers were identified that originate with practices and behaviors of health care providers, including reduced screening, missed vaccination opportunities, decreased likelihood of receiving prescriptions, and poor communication.
Conclusions: Lack of health insurance and lack of a regular source of care are major access barriers for Latino children, but many other barriers were identified that also can have a substantial effect on health care. In addition, the behaviors and practices of both health care providers and parents can affect access to care. Too little is known about what parents perceive to be the major barriers, access differences among Latino subpopulations, the roles of language and culture, and the causes of obstacles resulting from the actions of providers.