This weekend, many Latinos will come together to celebrate the men who hold a cherished place in their families. It may be a good opportunity to give them a nudge to see their doctor.
Among all ethnic groups, Latino men are the least likely to seek out needed health care, often waiting until it’s an emergency. But with many of the health issues Latino men are most likely to face, early intervention can make all the difference in long term outcomes.
“In my practice, we see a lot of stroke, heart disease, especially afflicting the men in Latino population,” said Dr. Javier Guevara, Jr., a family practitioner at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “In my previous job as a clinician on the west side of Chicago with a largely Hispanic population, men were largely diabetic with complication, kidney disease, blindness, heart attacks, strokes.”
Frank Medina, a medical student and member of the organization Latinos United for Cancer Education Research and Outreach (LUCERO) said that among Latino men, the lifetime probability of developing cancer is about one in three. But Latino men are more likely to suffer from certain cancers, “specifically liver cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer ... looking at liver cancer, while rates are similar among Latino men compared to their white counterparts, in the United States Latino men are more likely to die from liver cancer.”
Environmental inequities in largely Latino neighborhoods can increase risk of health issues in those communities as well, said Medina.
“If you look at maps of air pollution in our communities across Chicago … and then you look at maps of distributions where Latino people live, those two maps overlap with each other. So you see higher rates of asthma in those communities, higher rates of COPD, issues that affect your lungs.”
As part of its mission to bring cancer education and resources into communities, LUCERO is hosting a free men’s health and family resource fair Saturday, June 25 from 10 a.m. -12 p.m. at the Chicago Family Health Center, 9119 S. Exchange Ave.
As for the why Latino men might not seek out care when they need it, Lisa Sanchez-Johnsen, Ph.D. of Rush University Medical Center says in addition to lack of insurance coverage, health care organizations are often lacking in cultural competency.
“One of the things is that’s been discussed in the literature is just language being a barrier, sometimes, there might be fear of speaking a certain language and sometimes some biases that people might have if you’re speaking another language that might be looked at as not as a source of strength, which it really is,” said Sanchez-Johnsen. “Another reason could be not enough providers that match their ethnic and racial background … there can be sometimes fear of immigration status.”
Sanchez-Johnsen also cautions that, as in all matters, Latinos are not a monolith.
“We see sub-population differences across many different health issues. I study primarily obesity, and … we find that Puerto Rican men in particular have much higher rates of obesity compared to, for example, South American men,” she said. “There’s also differences in rates of smoking overall. You see that sometimes people can say that Latinos don’t have high rates of smoking. But if you look at those population differences in my research … Puerto Rican men [have] higher rates of smoking than others.”
Guevara said a lack of trust in health care providers in Latino communities necessitates a community-based approach for improving outcomes.
“Typically, Latino men will trust more either the barbers or their neighbors and friends rather than their physicians,” Guevara said. “I think what doctors can do is reach out to those community centers, reach out to places of worship that people find more trust in and try to organize events where screenings can happen.”
Sanchez-Johnsen offered some resources for those wishing to learn more about health issues affecting the Latino community:
The All of Us Research Program is a historic effort to gather data from 1 million or more people in the U.S. to accelerate research, improve health, and promote health equity.
• Medical Organization of Latino Advancement (MOLA) Latino Health Symposium: October 7- 8, 2022
Part of the National Latinx Psychological Association (NLPA) Conference, October 20-22, 2022