Health Disparities

Health Disparities

In the world, there is a large population that smokes. And in today’s world, we try to make it clear that they are bad and have really devastating side effects. A majority of races, ethnicities, and populations all have people who smoke in some sort of way. Whether it be whites, blacks, Hispanics or other, they all smoke. Why is that? It can be used to relieve stress, some it is a pass time, or maybe they started at a young age to be cool and never dropped the habit. Smoking is a disparity that affects many people. A disparity is a thing that affects many people of a certain group of people, like race, socioeconomic status, and much more. In the Hispanic community, about 21 percent use some sort of tobacco daily. By smoking, it can lead them to have many bad diseases and possibly die. There are many influences on why a large chunk of the Hispanic community smokes. And the Social-Ecological Model can help me explain it.

The Social-Ecological Model is a model that shows influences that can affect people and their health. The model has many levels starting at individual, and going to as large as public policy. I will show you the levels of individual, relationship, and community influences of the Social-Ecological Model (SEM). Let us say we are talking about a small community where the majority of the population is Hispanic. Individually, not many of the population understands what is bad about smoking. The reason for this might be that some of the population that smokes are older who really do not understand English. Since they do not speak English, it is harder for them to get the information from doctors and such. On the relationship aspect, many young members of the smoking population have been around the older smoking population. Being young, they might think that it is cool and of course start to do it themselves. Also having peers who smoke does not really help either. With people around them smoking, many of the young population will start to smoke. On a community level, many stores and places that sell tobacco products know they cannot sell to minors. However, minors will have older people buy it for them. While of course this is illegal, some of the store clerks can be oblivious to what is happening before them. On the streets, you see people hanging out and smoking in many places. This was just a very simple example of how the SEM is used to help explain the influences that affect the smoking Hispanic community.

An intervention that could impact at least one of the levels could be start making flyers and papers that show the effects of smoking in Spanish so the older population can read it and actually see the effects. I know they have some in Spanish about drug use and their side-effects, but those are mostly directed to the younger population and talk about all types of drugs. I think making one that is directed to an older audience in Spanish will help a lot of the community and individual level.

20 thoughts on “Health Disparities

  1. This is a very interesting insight, Hector. Language differences create several disparities in health that we as speakers of the western world’s most dominant language often forget about. We may look at the large percentage of Hispanics who smoke in their respective communities and pass it off as simple cultural habits, while being unaware to the fact these individuals may not have been raised in an anti-tobacco environment, or taught the negative effects of such through formal education. While differences in economies or access to technology create great health disparities, language itself creates many as well. I agree with your suggested intervention; educating older members of these communities is essential to changing the way younger generations will act. The US can begin to make conscious efforts to breaking down this language barrier and spreading this vital information abroad in ways that can actually be understood.

  2. Hector,
    I really enjoyed reading your post about the health disparity of smoking among the Hispanic population. I think this is a perfect example of a disparity because it has a great affect on a large part of a population. I did not think about how a population that primarily speaks a different language may not understand the effects because they don’t understand English. So I love your idea about putting up side effect flyers in Spanish; especially for the older population. But once they understand the negatives of smoking I think they should be given a solution or plan to stop smoking. So I think the flyers could also have information on resources they can use to stop the bad habit. I like your explanation of why people start smoking according to the SEM. I think that this is true of many other populations as well where younger kids take on the habits of the older figures in their life. Similar to the problem with breast cancer in Africa, it may be a problem because it is accepted by the culture. In Africa the women did not believe in modern medicine and it was not accepted to have breast removed rather than see magical healers. If smoking is accepted and seen as “cool” in the Hispanic culture that surely could be part of the cause for the high rates of smokers. The stores that sell tobacco probably know that a lot of their product is going to minors and are they turn a blind eye because that means they are making more profit.

  3. Hi, Hector, I like the light that you are shining on varying languages and the inability to get information. English speakers oftentimes think that everyone just understands their culture, but oftentimes that is not the case, as with countless individuals in varying cultures and communities. Research that is done should be broadcast in every language, because information is information, regardless of what language it is in. People who are unconsciously making poor health habits from a lack of knowledge is a problem that could be stopped with more broadcasting technology across the world. I personally believe that global education is a universal answer to many of the worlds problems, should we ever choose to put funds in things other than war. My question to other bloggers: how do you feel that information should be spread across other cultures?

    1. great post hector. as a mexican, growing up getting annual check ups and ever going to the doctor i dreaded it. I think as Mexican spanish speaking families it was 10x more intimidating for us. I didn’t just dread needles i dreaded a bias and prejudice. I was a young child not understanding anything in the medical world so i couldn’t help translate to my parents. I feel like it was overall a horrible experience that i was happy to get over with. I think now there’s a ton more help and bilingualarity in the health world, but growing up there really wasn’t. It helps to connect with your patients in their language. I think that makes it way easier and more comfortable to take a trip to the doctors.

  4. Hi Hector,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on smoking among the Hispanic population. I agree with you that language remains a huge barrier that prevents a lot of prevention efforts from reaching their subjects. The fact that underage smoking still prevents a thrill to teenagers, a thrill that comes with serious health risks, is hard to understand.
    I like your idea for prevention that’s more focused on the older generations. It’s very unlikely for an adolescent to show health issues directly relatable to smoking. Old people however are very likely to have pneumonia or heart attacks which are directly relatable to long term smoking. If the generation that’s actually affected by smoking ignores the habit’s dangers, how could we expect the younger, for now unaffected generation to do act differently.

  5. Hey Hector,
    I like how you specify that language creates disparities in health. From personal experience, I have had family members die of preventable health issues not caused by smoking . It saddens me to say that I believe that if the language issue could be fixed in some way, then preventable health problems could be addressed earlier. As far as your proposal to improve the health eduction of the older Spanish speaking hispanic populations, I think its a great idea to start spreading awareness to our community. Letting the community know that language could be a barrier to their health could start discussion in the community that could ultimately cause people to seek the help they need instead of lying in the shadows with their health problems. I also think that starting a discussion through different forms of media would help get the message across to a wider audience not just the hispanic community because ultimately different ethnicities, and races face some form of health disparity.

  6. Hector,
    I enjoyed your insight on this particular topic. Me growing up in a school system that overwhelmed me with a typhoon of facts about why you should say no to drugs and what the negative effects are that i have never really thought twice about what it would be like if i never was aught all that stuff. So many people that i know on campus engage in drugs and maybe they did not get the insight i did as i was learning about drugs. The SEM is a interesting thing as well because t ties in your point quite nicely. the combination of individual , relationship , and community influences.

  7. I would have never thought of smoking as a disparity and your thoughts on it and application to the Hispanic population are very insightful to me. It ties in the language barrier that the Hispanic community could face, causing such disparity. Language barriers cause a lot of problems for people in different countries when it comes to health care. For example, when I was in France, my mom’s friend that we were staying with started throwing up and passing out everywhere (had vertigo), and she was so delusional that she was only speaking French and couldn’t communicate with us. After finding out how to call the emergency number, it took a while for us to tell someone where we were and what the problem was. The language barrier caused help to come slower than usual which could have been life or death for someone with a more serious problem.

    Your solution for smoking in Hispanics, I think, is a great idea. Making teens aware by making flyers, and teaching the negative effects of smoking. But after that, I think more steps need to be taken to actually get the teens to stop, because many teens in America know the effects of smoking, but still do it anyways.

  8. I agree that smoking is a huge problem. Even though a lot less people smoke these days, it’s still a pretty huge problem. Lots of minorities smoke and it’s a pretty difficult habit to break. Many people in a lower socioeconomic class usually don’t have enough money to pay for treatment or get help after getting addicted to smoking so it is harder for them to escape. I know that my grandfather used to smoke because he couldn’t really afford food and smoking would put off his hunger until later. However, it was a habit that was unhealthy and took him several years to overcome. Luckily, he’s one of the few that were able to overcome it. I also agree that it’s harder for minorities who don’t speak English because it is much harder for them to get facts about drugs. I think that having warnings in Spanish and having interventions would be a really great and helpful idea.

  9. I really appreciated your example about Hispanics and smoking because it made me understand the term “disparity” much more. It is unfair to blame this population of people for not understanding their unhealthy habit, when in reality, they have not received health education in their language. In the scenario, language is similar to the fence blocking the kid in the comic from seeing the baseball game. I think your idea to increase efforts in making health education available in more languages is a great way to improve this. Quitting smoking is very difficult, but perhaps if more Hispanics knew about the negative health effects before picking up smoking, less would start. With less people smoking, the chances of it being deemed “cool” would also decrease.

  10. I thought that it was really interesting that you brought up the language barrier in your post. Most people would easily jump to the conclusions of peer pressure and old habits being passed down, but having a language barrier is not something that I would immediately think of. While several problems relating to the health disparities in the Hispanic population relate to socio-economic statuses, it is also important to realize that other factors can influence the health of a population. Language is a powerful tool that we can use to educate others about better practices. Raising awareness in a way that is effective can be difficult in a population where such practices have been common for generations, so utilizing something as centralized as language is important.

  11. It is very interesting that you brought up the language factor as a factor of health disparities in Hispanic community. Growing up in a non-English-speaking community, I totally understand how language could block people from getting proper health information and understanding why something is harmful for their health. However, besides the smoking case you talk about, I think there are many other situations existing in the world that cannot just be solved by health education and tackling the language barrier. I think what language represents in those cases is actually the particular culture of the communities. For example, many Chinese people believe traditional Chinese medicine more than the modern western medical technology, which is considered as being kind of ignorant since traditional Chinese medicine often cannot be explained by modern technology. However, it works, and might work better than modern medical technology in some extreme cases. To let people understand the difference between those two types of medical treatment, I think we should understand the cultural background of the community first instead of judging it with our own experience.

  12. Hi Hector,
    I enjoyed reading the thoughts you had pertaining to the disparities of smoking. I grew up in an environment where smoking was viewed as okay and the popular thing to do to pass time. So, I understand when you say the trend of smoking is being passed down through generations. But over the years, I know that once you’ve been around a habit for so long it’s hard to quit. So, keeping people from smoking is not necessarily the hard thing about this disparity; however, providing them with the help they need to end tis habit is the hard part. So, I think the environment in which the person lives in is the biggest barrier that keeps people from stopping their smoking habit.

  13. Hi Hector,

    I think you brought up something really important in health disparities, which is race. You tied back to personal culture and maybe it is a disparity you have witnessed and experienced first hand like I have. The primary language in America is English, which may sound great at first, but I never actually thought of the consequences. Did it ever occur to me to think how my grandparents may not even be able to read the warning signs? I guess it did not. I think this is something maybe more people fail to recognize as well.
    In addition to language I also think there can be another thing done. In my observation last week and in class I was able to learn more about clinics that construct habits to stop smoking. There are bilingual professionals out there and I think that can benefit individuals a lot more too. A phone call was made back to a patient trying to quit within my observation and I thought it was really interesting. I’ve never been followed up with after seeing a doctor and the fact that she was continuing already is a large support factor. It can also be tied back to our module “On Purpose” because it really will take people to say what matters to them to help them stop. If a goal is to be a good mother, it should be known that it can’t be fulfilled by smoking. Once some Hispanics (or any other demographic) sees the harms and is educated on tobacco then I believe their ideas will spread to others in their community.

  14. I definitely agree that smoking would be reduced in a population by the health information that flyers, etc. would bring about. I think smoking is deeply ingrained in latino culture, like many other cultures, and a good PSA would tie in the supposed machismo of smoking, in comparison to its actual effects on your body.

  15. This was really interesting and insightful, as I had never thought of language being a barrier to attaining good health. Your idea of publicizing informative flyers in Spanish is a good idea; another step forward could be the formation of Hispanic health education organizations, directed specifically at the Hispanic community. This way, not only will there be no language barrier, but the existence of a shared culture will help to establish a sense of community and positive unity towards promoting better health. This could be applicable to other major cultures and other health issues as well.

  16. This is a really interesting thought; until this lecture, I had only considered disparities to be of the economic type, in which people aren’t able to access proper healthcare due to lack of funds. Now I can understand that there are other types of disparities, one of the main ones being cultural. This shows us that as future healthcare professionals, it’s important for us to focus on diversity and the things that make us different and able to relate to many different kinds of people, rather than just the wealthy white demographic in the US. Your idea to publish fliers directed specifically at the Hispanic community addresses this issue and will help establish a more united front towards promoting healthcare.

  17. Fascinating insight Hector! I entirely concur with what you have said regarding language barriers and how they affect our ability to provide adequate health care for all Americans. A sizable portion of our population speak Spanish as their first language. It would be easy for one to say it is their responsibility to learn English. But in the field of healthcare, it is our responsibility to provide, regardless of differences in race, background, class, and language. Hence, by hiring doctors who speak Spanish proficiently, we are using the rule of intersectionality to take into account cultural differences between mainstream America and a sizable minority. Intersectionality is crucial, as we must have doctors who can sympathize with and understand the backgrounds of the patients that are most at risk. However, as far as hiring health professionals goes, it is important to not make background too large of a factor in whether someone is hired, as it would disrupt an equal job market in the field of public health.

  18. I agree that the SEM explains how the socio-economic status and cultural background has created health between different ethnic groups. On the other hand, it is equally important for health care workers to understand that latent health disparities do exist intrinsically between races and ethnic groups. For example, myopia among students in East Asia has been a known problem for decades. It reaches above 80% among high school and college students in developed areas. So someone did a comparison between white Australian kids and Asian kids born and grew up in Australia. The researcher made sure that the subjects spend the same amount of time studying, nonetheless the Asian kids had 29% of myopia rate while the white Australian kids had a percentage of 3. There is also statistics showing that black women have a higher chance to get breast cancer.

  19. I do agree that smoking is a major problem and it should be fixed, but a lot of people do have habits they can’t break. The things that are placed in substances or items that are bad for us gave ingredients that can become addicting. Nicotine for example is in cigarettes and THC is in weed. Once these two things have control over your body it is hard to break the habit.

    Things such as drugs and poor habits are more prevalent in poor communities. For example if you go to Detroit there is a liquor store on every corner but in Ann Arbor they are rarely around. The goal is to keep the poor communities poor and the rich communities rich. This should not happen but this is the way the world works. There are even less support systems in poor communities compared to wealthy communities. Recovery programs and therapy are often horrible compared to those given to higher class people. It is sad that we live in a world with such health disparities that can’t be fixed, but socio-economic status and cultural background should not be an affect on that.

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