Physician shortage hits Latino population hardest

Since 1980, the Latino population has seen explosive growth in the U.S. and shows no sign of slowing: It is expected to grow from 51 million in 2010 to 129 million by 2060. Despite this growth, the supply of Latino physicians is dropping significantly, according to a recent study from UCLA.

Based on U.S. Census data, researchers showed the Latino population grew 243 percent in the U.S. between 1980 and 2010, compared to just 11 percent growth in the non-Hispanic white population in the same time frame, according to the report.

Meanwhile, the ratio of NHW physicians to NHW individuals has increased from 1980 to 2010, from 211 physicians to 315 per 100,000 individuals. Across the same period, the ratio of Latino physicians to Latino individuals decreased 22 percent: from 135 physicians to 105 per 100,000 individuals, according to the report.

The ratio of Latino physicians to Latino population was 33 percent lower than the ratio of NHW physicians to NHW population in 1980. By 2010, it was 67 percent lower.

"The lack of Latino representation is not merely a diversity issue; it is an issue of practice patterns and of patient access to language-concordant and culturally competent care," the authors wrote.

Other studies have shown minority physicians, including Latinos, are more willing to work in underserved areas and care for minority populations, according to the report. What is more, studies have shown Latino patients who are less proficient in English visit the physician's office less frequently than Latinos with greater English proficiency. Spanish speakers will not necessarily receive more care by increasing insurance coverage, the authors wrote.

The study underscores the growing need for Latino physicians and physicians with proficient Spanish speaking abilities to address the gap in Latino access to healthcare.


More articles on integration and physician issues:

Study: Women communicate better with midwives than physicians
Patients are still looking for Dr. Right
300+ physician groups push for improvements to Medicare Advantage

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