Illness Burden in Hispanic Women: The Role of Social Networks
The constant influx of Latino immigrants throughout the decades has transformed the demographic composition of the United States, such that the Hispanic population has experienced a 592% growth since 1970. Given that chronic conditions affect minority groups earlier and at much higher rates than other populations, it is especially important to investigate health in the growing Latino community. Despite declining cancer incidence and mortality rates, Latina patients continue to have lower 5-year survival rates compared to their non-Hispanic white counterparts. Moreover, Hispanic adults are 1.7 times more likely to have been diagnosed with diabetes, 2.6 times more likely to be hospitalized for diabetes related end-stage renal disease, and 1.4 times more likely to die from diabetes compared to non-Hispanic white adults.
Given the central role of family in the Latino culture, social relationships may help attenuate adverse health outcomes by promoting overall health and wellness for those involved. Dominant paradigms examining the impact of close relationships on focus on the individual, often a patient, or dyadic perspective, frequently spousal or parent-child relationships. However, these models fail to consider the unique cultural influences of other members that are present in Hispanic families. Given that familism, a cultural value that emphasizes family over self, is one of the most prominent values in the Hispanic community, it is especially important to consider the role that social network members play in disease management.
To address these needs, a series of analyses examined the role of meaningful others, including medical providers and family members, on health behavior and health outcomes. Results from three separate datasets buttress the importance of such connections indicating that relationships matter for the overall health and wellness of Hispanic women. Research findings may have significant implications for the design of healthcare interventions that elicit change at the individual and social network levels with the goal of producing health equity for all.