CDC: Hispanics in US living longer than whites

CDC, HIV, Indiana
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Hispanics in the United States are living an average of two years longer than white people, despite having less access to healthcare, according to the first national survey of the population’s health.

Figures released by the Centers for Disease Control on Tuesday state Hispanics have a mortality rate than is 25 percent lower than for the white population, though Hispanics are three times less likely to have health insurance and twice as likely to be in poverty.

{mosads}The data demonstrate what has been called the “Hispanic paradox,” the center’s Director Dr. Tom Frieden said.

“A lot of that — perhaps even most of it — is the lower smoking rate,” Frieden told reporters Tuesday.

The Hispanic population has a lower death rate than whites for most leading causes of death, with even better health reported among Hispanics who were born abroad. Foreign-born Hispanics are generally less likely to suffer from cancer, heart disease, obesity and hypertension, though they are more likely to face barriers to healthcare.

Much of the disparity can be attributed to the lower smoking rates among Hispanics, especially those born abroad, as well as “higher levels of family support” and a pattern of ‘reverse migration’ of sicker or older immigrants,” the report stated.

Frieden said the report offers “good news and not so good news.”

“The bottom line is that there are wide variations in disease and health risk depending on where someone was born,” Frieden, who speaks fluent Spanish, said in a call with reporters.

Hispanics in the U.S. are three times less likely to have insurance than whites. About 41 percent of Hispanics lack insurance, the survey said, a figure that is on par with a 2011 survey by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.  

The Obama administration had put a strong focus on enrolling Hispanics during the latest round of healthcare signups, devoting about one-third of the Department of Health and Human Services’ media budget to reaching that community.

Still, officials have acknowledged that they have struggled to reach the population. Only about 1 in 10 ObamaCare customers is Hispanic, according to data from the federal government this year.

Nearly 50 percent of Hispanics said they knew little or nothing about the ObamaCare exchanges, according to a national poll in March 2015.

Health risks vary greatly depending on a person’s country of origin, which often influences behavior, the report said.

For example, people who were born in Puerto Rico had higher mortality rates than people who were born in Mexico, which the CDC attributes to the overall higher smoking rate. Smoking prevalence is nearly two-thirds higher among Puerto Ricans than Mexicans, according to the CDC’s report.

“[Smoking] is a major, major risk factor for mortality in the United States,”  Dr. Ken Dominguez, a medical epidemiologist for the CDC, said Tuesday. “We think that is probably the biggest factor.”

Both Frieden and Dominguez stressed that smoking rates and drinking were major contributors to higher death rates among certain sub-groups of the Hispanic population.

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