Latino Healthcare Discrimination

Research from the Oregon State University finds that young Oregonian Latinos experience discrimination in health care system

New research from OSU recently, published in the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, found that discrimination by health care providers may be preventing young Latinos from seeking access to health services.

Researchers conducted interviews with 349 Latino individuals from rural areas of Oregon between the ages of 18 and 25. The findings show that 40 percent of participants said they experience discrimination when obtaining health care services. The study also showed experiences of discrimination were found to be significantly higher for foreign-born Latinos than for US-born Latinos.

Much of the past research has focused on urban area, and until now there has been little assessment of health care discrimination in rural regions.

“We’ve seen in our work with the communities locally in Corvallis and in other parts of the state this theme around discrimination and fear of deportation and stress playing out in different ways,” said lead researcher Daniel Lopez-Cevallos, the associate director of research with the Center for Latino/a Studies and Engagement at OSU.

The study, called The Latino Health Project, was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is part of a larger project to assess rates of institutional discrimination against Latinos.

Co-author of the study Marie Harvey, the associate dean for research and graduate programs in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, said that she and Lopez-Cevallos share the overall goal of eliminating health care disparities, and giving all people access to primary health care and preventive services.

“What we would like is for our findings to really inform policies and practices within primary care facilities and providers, to better understand what it is that makes people feel discriminated against,” said Harvey.

According to Lopez-Cevallos, perceived discrimination is a major barrier to accessing health care services for Latinos and other underrepresented groups.

If someone feels discriminated against, they are less likely to access health care services in a timely manner, delaying easily treatable health issues until the situation is too urgent to ignore. This delay in receiving treatment can lead to the development of chronic illnesses, which are more costly to treat.

While Lopez-Cevallos could not disclose whether any of the study’s participants were students at OSU, about 64 percent of the participants had 12 years of schooling or more.

Healthcare discrimination can affect young Latinos regardless of their level of education – the study found that discrimination occurred regardless of participants’ education in the English language.

“We included a measure of acculturation that is a language-based measure, and it was not associated with healthcare discrimination,” Lopez-Cevallos said.

Many clinics may  offer bilingual employees or translators, but based on this study’s results, there may be more than a language barrier between Latinos and proper access to health care services.

“It’s not just enough to speak the language,” Lopez-Cevallos said. “There’s something else about understanding the context of where these young adult Latinos come from that I think is important as we move forward with healthcare reform.”

This research by Lopez-Cevallos and Harvey is their second publication related to health care disparities for Latinos, their first relating to discrimination and medical mistrust. A third will compare health care discrimination in rural and urban populations.

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