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Latinos recently became the largest racial/ethnic minority group of U.S. children, accounting for one of every six children in the United States. They are at high risk for behavioral and developmental disorders. These include anxiety and depression, school dropout (29 percent), exposure to environmental hazards (Latino communities are often located in highly contaminated areas such as hazardous waste sites), obesity (they are the most overweight U.S. children), diabetes mellitus, asthma, lack of health insurance (27 percent), nonfinancial barriers to health care access (for example, transportation and language problems), and impaired quality of care.
The Latino Consortium of the American Academy of Pediatrics Center for Child Health Research, consisting of 13 expert panelists, recently identified urgent priorities in Latino child health. Their work was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (K02 HS11305).
Glenn Flores, M.D., of the Medical College of Wisconsin, and other consortium experts recommend that Latino children be better represented in medical research; that study data be analyzed by pertinent Latino subgroups (for example, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans), which have different rates of health problems such as low birthweight and asthma; and that studies focus on identifying the social and economic determinants of Latino child health and use of health services. They also suggest training health care professionals more extensively in cultural competency; increasing the number of Latino health care professionals; and eliminating disparities in access to care, mental health, immunization coverage, oral and environmental health, and quality of care.
Research instruments, such as questionnaires and behavioral assessments, are rarely designed for Latino children and usually are not culturally or linguistically appropriate. The consortium recommends that child health research instruments at least be validated in Spanish-speaking families, poor and low-literacy populations, and all relevant Latino subgroups. Finally, they call for outreach and enrollment efforts and ways to eliminate barriers to care for Latinos.
See "The health of Latino children: Urgent priorities, unanswered questions, and a research agenda," by Dr. Flores, M.D., Elena Fuentes-Afflick, M.D., M.P.H., Oxiris Barbot, M.D., and others, in the July 3, 2002, Journal of the American Medical Association 288(1), pp. 82-90.
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