March 23, 2017

A research team that included Dr. Dylan Roby from the School of Public Health's Department of Health Services Administration investigated health care access and utilization experiences among Latino children according to parental citizenship status and household language (Spanish only, English only and mix of the two) in California. Their study found differences in experiences in care related to communication, with parent-reported experiences in care worst among families with noncitizen parents or Spanish-only speaking households.

At one quarter of the child population, Latinos are the largest ethnic or racial group of children in the United States. Previous research has shown that Latino children have not been well served by the pediatric health system and that they generally have poorer access to care and utilization patterns than non-Latino white children, even when controlling for income, citizenship and insurance status. The study, which used data from the 2011 and 2012 California Health Interview, found no substantial differences in access to or utilization of health care according to parental citizenship status or language use among Latinos, yet it did find significant disparities in satisfaction with communication with health care providers. Parents of children in bilingual and Spanish-only households were less likely to report that their children’s doctors explained things clearly and communication with pediatricians via phone or e-mail was less likely to happen when parents were Spanish-only speakers. Children with two noncitizen parents also had fewer doctor visits and were less likely to go to the emergency department.

“The findings suggest that even with current laws that ensure access to language services to help facilitate provider-patient communication, the health care system is still falling short,” Dr. Roby said. “There is more work to do to ensure that the most vulnerable of Latino children and families do not experience lower quality of care because of communication barriers.”

“Experiences in Care According to Parental Citizenship and Language Use Among Latino Children in California” was published in Academic Pediatrics January-February 2017.

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Academic Pediatrics
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Dylan H. Roby