Doctors talk health issues facing Hispanic children, adults

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Health care disparities among Latino communities are well-known. But what specifically are the top issues affecting children and adults, and what can families do about them? Joining Horizonte to discuss are Dr. Ruben Espinoza, a pediatrician with Banner Health, and Dr. Jesse Bracamonte, a family doctor at the Mayo Clinic.

According to InsureKidsNow.gov, 25.6% of Hispanic children have obesity. Why is this such a prevalent health issue among Latino children?

Dr. Espinoza said that while obesity is prevalent in Hispanic children, it’s also an issue in pediatrics overall.

“There’s multifactoral causes for it, and that makes our community, the Hispanic part and minorities, more prone. Because there’s a genetic predisposition,” Dr. Espinoza said.

How can families work to prevent this?

Dr. Espinoza said the “gold standard” piece of advice is for families to develop healthier eating habits. But that’s not always possible for everyone, he said.

“Most of the foods sometimes are higher-priced, and that just puts a big toll on the family. So then, families that are struggling, sometimes they just get whatever they can afford, and sometimes that’s not the optimal diet,” he explained.

Turning the focus now onto adults, what are the top three health issues that Latino adults deal with?

Dr. Bracamonte said the top three issues to him are diabetes, hypertensive heart disease and cancer.

“Trying to catch preventable cancers that can be effectively treated are of utmost importance to the family doc,” Dr. Bracamonte said. “I really preach to the choir or get onto my soapbox and tell patients, ‘You’ve got to get screened for this.’ Because if it’s caught early, it’s treatable.”

How do you go about diagnosing diabetes, and what can be done to prevent it?

“Diabetes is a simple screen test,” Dr. Bracamonte said. “So just like my colleague in pediatrics discussed, checking the body mass index, the weight, blood pressure, are all standard things that you can go to the doctor for. It’s the simple test. It’s basically a glucose check. It can be a finger stick test or a lab check. And we can check your sugar.”

He added: “If it’s caught, you can be effectively treated with some medications, which are phenomenal, and they work. Secondly, if you do catch it early, and you catch it and get on the right medications, along with lifestyle, diet changes, exercise, it can be effectively treated, sometimes without medication.” 

Dr. Ruben Espinoza, M.D.- Pediatrician, Banner Health
Jesse Bracamonte, M.D., D.O.- Family doctor, Mayo Clinic

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