National study identifies health risks for Hispanics/Latinos


Martha Daviglus (center), director of the UIC Institute for Minority Health Research, shares study findings at a campus press conference Monday. Also at the podium (L-R): Aida Giachello, Northwestern University; James Lash, UIC College of Medicine; Bechara Choucair, Chicago commissioner of public health; and LaMar Hasbrouck, director, Illinois Department of Public Health. Photo: Joshua Clark/UIC Photo Services

Results from the largest health study of Hispanics/Latinos in the U.S. conducted to date found that many are at high risk for health problems like diabetes and hypertension.

The National Institutes of Health released findings Monday from the first phase of its ongoing Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos.

The multi-city epidemiological study, which included 4,136 participants from Chicago, collected information on the health issues, risk factors, and lifestyle habits that impact this population.

“This is information that people can use to help them make better health choices,” said Martha Daviglus, director of UIC’s Institute for Minority Health Research and principal investigator for the Chicago portion of the study.

“We now know, for example, that one-third of the participants have pre-diabetes,” Daviglus said. “By educating and informing our participants and Hispanics/Latinos everywhere through the sharing of these new data, people can begin to make educated choices about their health.”

Data was collected between 2008 and 2011 from 16,415 adults, ages 18-74, who lived in Chicago, San Diego, Miami or the Bronx and self-identified as being of Central American, Cuban, Dominican, Mexican, Puerto Rican or South American background.

“This study is so important because the Hispanic/Latino population is the fastest growing population in the U.S., and we need to know and document their health problems to better serve their health care needs going forward,” Daviglus said. “This study is the foundation for those efforts.”

Sharing the findings with the study participants and the public has been a major goal from the beginning, Daviglus said. The nonprofit National Alliance for Hispanic Health produced a booklet for participants that summarizes the results and highlights the data for each city.

Some national findings include:

• Eighty percent of men and 71 percent of women had at least one adverse risk factor for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or smoking.

• The percentage who have obesity was high among all Hispanic/Latino groups but was lowest among participants of South American origin.

• Few younger participants had diabetes, but almost half of participants ages 65-74 had the disease. About half of the men and women with diabetes had the disease under control.

• Men were more likely than women to eat enough fruits and vegetables each day.

• Hispanic/Latina women, especially those age 45-64, were more likely to report symptoms of depression than men.

Among the Chicago findings:

• Nearly half of participants age 45-64 were at high risk for diabetes.

• One in three participants with diabetes were unaware that they had the disease.

• Women were more likely than men to know they had high blood pressure.

• About 40 percent of participants ages 18-44 were obese.

• About 57 percent of Chicago participants age 18-64 lacked health insurance, trailing only Miami, where 71 percent were without coverage.

• On average, women age 45-64 spent only nine minutes each day in recreational physical activity.

Each participant underwent extensive health examinations to assess lifestyle-related risk factors for cardiovascular, pulmonary, liver, kidney, and other diseases. They also had sleep, dental and hearing evaluations.

The participants provided demographic, socioeconomic and cultural information that could influence disease risk.

They were followed for up to four years by yearly phone calls or home visits to assess changes in their health and to document any medical events, such as hospitalizations.

The information compiled in the data book “serves as a foundation for individuals, communities, scientists and health policymakers to use to tailor more effective health intervention strategies,” said Larissa Aviles-Santa, the study’s project officer at the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, primary sponsor of Phase 1 along with six other NIH institutes and centers.

Phase 2 began last June with continued follow-up of study participants. In October, the study will take a second look at cardiovascular risk, using echocardiography and blood and urine tests to correlate with demographic, cultural and lifestyle factors. Genetic information will be analyzed to see if health and disease findings can be linked to specific genes.

“As the study continues over the next six years and beyond, we will be able to see how acculturation and lifestyle factors play a protective or detrimental role in the health of Hispanics/Latinos,” said Daviglus.

The Institute for Minority Health Research, a research and training unit at UIC that studies biomedical and behavioral health disparities, will manage the second phase under a contract from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Daviglus was principal investigator of the Chicago field center during the first phase of the study while at Northwestern University, where she is still adjunct professor of preventive medicine.

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