Many health care studies examine disparities based on race and ethnicity, but there tends to be less focus on links between language and health status.
A new report by the Colorado Health Institute, Speaking of Health: Spanish Speakers Lagging in Colorado, summarizes key findings on language and health from the 2013 Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS).
People who speak Spanish at home are more likely than the state’s non-Spanish speakers to report poor physical and oral health, according to the CHAS. However, there is little difference between the two groups when it comes to mental health.
Nearly one of five Spanish speakers (19 percent) report fair or poor physical health — the two lowest options — compared with 11 percent of non-Spanish speakers. For oral health, about 31 percent of Spanish speakers report that it is fair or poor, double the rate of non-Spanish speakers (15 percent).
But there is only a marginal difference between the two groups in those reporting at least eight poor mental health days in the past 30 days.
Worse health among those who speak Spanish at home may reflect greater barriers to health care. For example, Spanish speakers are significantly more likely to report not having a usual source of care and not receiving preventive medical care.
Still, the CHAS cites similar findings for Colorado’s Spanish speakers and non-Spanish speakers in several areas: not being able to get an appointment when it is needed; insurance not being accepted by a clinic; a clinic not accepting new patients; and not being able to miss work to get care.
Spanish speakers make up 12 percent of Colorado’s population. And their health and well-being is important in making Colorado the healthiest state.