First National CDC Study on Hispanic Health Finds 23% Higher Prevalence of Obesity and
50% Higher Death from Diabetes

Published in July/August 2015 Issue             

Overall Death Rate However 24% Lower
than Non-Hispanic Whites

Hispanics have lower rates of death than whites from most of the 10 leading causes of death with two notable exceptions. Deaths from diabetes were 51 percent higher, while chronic liver disease was 48 percent higher.

In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC), issued its first report on Hispanic health and found the overall death rate among the nation's fastest-growing ethnic group is 24 percent lower than
non-Hispanic whites.

However, it cautioned the Hispanic community is especially harder hit by certain diseases and conditions, chief among them diabetes, obesity, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis.

The report found the prevalence of obesity among Hispanics was 23 percent higher, and while Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites had comparable rates of high blood pressure, nearly one-quarter more of Hispanics had uncontrolled hypertension. Hispanics were also 28 percent less likely to be screened for colorectal cancer.

About 1 in 6 people living in the U.S. are Hispanic (about 57 million), a number that is expected to grow to nearly 1 in 4 by 2035. Heart disease and cancer were the leading causes of death in both Hispanics and whites, though Hispanics had 35% less heart disease and 49% less cancer than whites.

The CDC’s findings are consistent with previous reports that found a "Hispanic paradox" to describe Hispanics' projected longer life expectancy (by an estimated 2 years) and lower overall mortality, despite potential barriers to good health such as higher rates of being uninsured and socioeconomic factors including lower incomes, difficulty with the English language and less education.

John Morton, MD

“Obesity cuts across ethnicity,” said John M. Morton, MD, president of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS). “And while obesity is significantly higher in the Hispanic population, the utilization of proven and effective treatments for obesity among this group, including bariatric surgery, remains significantly lower than in the general population. Insurance coverage and cultural issues certainly play a role, but the medical community can certainly do a better job in working with this community.”

Data from the Bariatrics Outcomes Longitudinal Database (BOLD) in 2010, a self-reported bariatric surgery patient information database, showed that out of a total of 57,918 patients, 78 percent were described as Causasian, while only 6 percent were Hispanic.

“The two biggest health threats to the Hispanic community are the twin epidemics of obesity and diabetes,” said Dr. Morton. “There is a real need to reach out to this community with culturally sensitive information and education about the benefits of weight loss and the role bariatric surgery can potentially play in improving health and extending life. This is a population that can benefit from bariatric surgery, and they should certainly not be ignored.”

Jaime Ponce, MD, past president of the ASMBS added, “It’s critical for the medical community to come together to address the underlying social, economic, cultural and environmental factors that contribute to high obesity and diabetes rates and pose a serious threat to the health and future of our next generation.”

The CDC recommends that doctors and other health care professionals work with interpreters to elminate language barriers, counsel patients on weight control and diet, help patients quit smoking and engage community health workers to educate and link kpeole to free or low-cost services. The Federal Government can help eligible Hispanics get insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act.

“This (CDC) report reinforces the need to sustain strong community, public health, and health care linkages that support Hispanic health,” said CDC Associate Director for Minority Health and Health Equity, Leandris C. Liburd, PhD, MPH, MA, in a press release at the time the report was announced.