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Research: Latino Families Face Life-Threatening Lack of Support

Latino families often lack the support they need for healthy lives. Sadly, 1 in 3 Latino families live in poverty and face big gaps in early education, healthcare, and social services, making it harder for Latino kids to achieve academically, socially, and physically, according to a new Salud America! research review. Explore the research to see the current state of the Latino family, and emerging policies and practices to build a new level of support.


Rocio Munoz.jpgAbout 1 in 3 Latino families live in poverty and face big gaps in early education, healthcare, and social support, according to a new research review from Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio.

The Salud America! review examined research on the state of Latino families.

Here are just a few startling facts:

  • 2 in 3 Latino families are low-income. Income is tied to life expectancy.
  • 60% of Latinos earn less than $15/hour (vs. 39% of all full-time workers).
  • 15.1% of Latinos have no healthcare coverage (vs. 6.6% of whites).
  • 1 in 5 Latino kids didn’t have a well-care visit in the last year.
  • Latino parents and kids have high rates of “toxic stress” at home.
  • Fewer Latino than white kids (52% to 63%) enroll in early care and education (ECE).
  • Latino kids face a 25-percentage-point gap in early cognitive development than white kids.

The Salud America! review also uncovers key ways to build family support.

“Whole-family” approaches that connect Latino kids and parents to culturally relevant support services can improve education, income, and home environments.

Latino kids who participate in ECE centers match or exceed their peers in academic and social gains. In Head Start centers that also serve as resource hubs for early care, healthcare, and family support, kids showed improved cognitive/social development, higher high-school grad rates, higher college entry rates, higher earnings, and better health.

Also, school programs with promotores de salud boost Latinos’ uptake of healthcare services.

“Meeting Latinos’ specific social, educational, and economic needs is essential for the proper development of children—and the health of American society at large as the Latino population rises,” said Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, lead author of the research review, and director of Salud America!.

The research also makes key policy and practice recommendations.

  • Leaders can promote availability of and access to ECE programs among Latino families.
  • Healthcare leaders can create “medical homes” for Latinos.
  • School and community leaders can develop “community-schools” that combine classroom teaching with on-site family wellness centers, promotoras, and more.

Take the story of Rocio Muñoz, for example.

Muñoz, who grew up amid extreme racial/ethnic health and economic disparities, had to act as a health navigator for her family and friends to help connect them to healthcare services.

Eventually, Muñoz became a health navigator for the Benton County Health Department in Oregon.

Here she realized the Latino population suffered many unmet health needs.

So she worked with the local school district to embed bilingual, bicultural health navigators into elementary schools in Corvallis, Ore. (7.4% Latino).

School health navigators coordinate with students, parents, and teachers about students’ health records in order to boost access to health resources and services available through state Medicaid, as well as other school and community resources.

Navigators tackle barriers of language, access to care, and fear of using government services.

Navigators connect families to health insurance, care, and translation, and connect students with vision, hearing, dental specialists, and well-child checks.

Muñoz’s services are so popular, she arrives to work to often find five mothers lined up at 8:15 a.m. with papers in their hands.

“The beauty of being a community health worker is that we have already experienced some of the barriers ourselves,” Muñoz said. “Then also because we are coming from a community organization, we already come with those skills and the knowledge and the connection to the available community resources for our members.”

Access the full research review and find additional stories and tools to build family support.