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An Analysis of Healthcare Access and Utilization within the Latino Population of Portland, Oregon

1 August 2005


Context: Data from the National Health Interview Survey has shown that health, life expectancy and mortality patterns vary greatly between different ethnic and racial groups. Today, Latinos make up the fastest growing ethnic group within the United States. Current research has found numerous inequalities specific to the Latino population with reference to health care access and utilization.

Objective: To create a general profile of the Latino community in Northwest Oregon, and to assess which types of health care services are being utilized within this population. The overall purpose of this assessment was to identify barriers specific to Latinos in this metropolitan area regarding access to medical care.

Design: An independent, healthcare survey was developed specifically for use in this study. Survey questions were based on previous research and geared toward the Latino population with the purpose of gathering demographic data, identifying general socioeconomic information, and evaluating health care status, access, and utilization.

Setting: 625 English and Spanish surveys were distributed across the Portland metropolitan communities including Multnomah and Washington County through various· community service facilities, businesses, and word of mouth.

Results: 196 adult respondents, all of self reported Latino ethnicity. Health status was primarily reported as good or better. The majority of the participants were uninsured, with less than a high school education, and an income of less than $20,000 per year. The bulk of the respondents primarily utilized family medicine, and frequently reported their last health check up as within the last 3 years. Lack of insurance coverage, finances, and language were found to be the most characteristic barriers to seeking out health care in this community sample. Cost and communication difficulties were the primary obstacles encountered when receiving medical care. Clinic hours, childcare and transportation did not seem to significantly affect access to healthcare for this population sampling.

Conclusions: There seem to be basic problems which are specific to the Latino community of Portland, Oregon with regard to health care access and utilization. These encumbrances seem to be related to inadequate income and insurance coverage as well as language difficulties and the lack of a consistent primary care provider. Healthy People 2010 has paved the way for the nation to address disparities in health care beginning with each individual region. In developing a general profile of Latinos in Northwest Oregon, potential obstacles within this population may be identified so that target areas of improvement can be appropriately addressed in order to improve the overall health of the community.


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