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2.25.2014

Study Probes Why Hispanics Live Longer

First findings of most comprehensive study ever on Hispanic health

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) released the Hispanic Community Health Study Data Book, based on the largest, most comprehensive study ever conducted on Hispanic health in the U.S. Among the questions being addressed by the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (SOL) are why Hispanics in the U.S. live longer than non-Hispanic whites (83 vs. 79 years) and whether this trend will continue. The NIH in conjunction with the National Alliance for Hispanic Health is also releasing a report, About Our Health, that will be distributed to the 16,415 men and women who participated in SOL, including 4,087 participants from Miami-Dade County.

According to Neil Schneiderman, Ph.D., Principal Investigator of the Miami Field Center, the University of Miami arm of the study, “Hispanics make up 16 percent (50.5 million people) of the U.S. population, but we have only limited knowledge about their health. The results from this landmark study are providing information that will allow us to improve health in general as well as within Hispanic communities.”

The Miami Field Center enrolled participants from the cities of Coral Gables, Hialeah, and Miami. They were primarily of Cuban (56 percent), Central American (25 percent), and South American (12 percent) descent. Some of the overall trends found in the reports for participants from Miami include:

• Men of Cuban background were more aware of their hypertension and were under treatment and under control more than were other Hispanic groups.
• Individuals of Cuban, Central American and South American background were least aware of their diabetes. Of those aware of their diabetes, more Cubans and Puerto Ricans had their diabetes under control.
• The lowest percentage of Hispanics with diabetes was found among individuals of South American background.
• Hispanics of Central American background reported the lowest percentages of previous history of coronary heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
• The lowest percentage of smokers was found in individuals of Central American, South American, and Dominican background.
• Among the different Hispanic groups almost half of participants of Cuban and South American backgrounds reported eating at least five fruits and vegetables per day.
• Participants of Cuban background reported less recreational physical activity than participants from other backgrounds and also reported fewer minutes per day of work-related physical activity.
• In Miami more individuals chose to speak in Spanish at the assessment visit than did participants in the other communities.
• The Hispanic population in Miami had the highest percentage of uninsured in the 18-64 age group.
• Of those with insurance, Medicaid was the most common form of insurance among participants from Miami.
• Most Hispanic individuals ages 65-74 were insured through Medicare.

“Today, because of the participation of thousands of Hispanic men and women in this groundbreaking NIH study, we have a better picture of health in America,” said Jane L. Delgado, Ph.D., President and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health. “To understand the reasons Hispanics have a longer life than non-Hispanic whites (83 years vs. 79 years), we need to know the facts about Hispanics.”

Some overall trends discovered in the NIH study:

• Only half the Hispanic men and women ages 45-64 had their diabetes under control.
• Hispanic women were more likely than Hispanic men to say they had asthma.
• Hispanic women, especially those ages 45-64, were the most likely to describe symptoms of depression.
• Daily recreational physical activity was limited across all ages.
• At all ages, women consumed much less salt than men.
• Hispanic men were more likely than Hispanic women to eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
• Hispanic men were more likely to drink alcoholic beverages than Hispanic women.

The multiyear study of 16,415 Hispanic men and women ages 18-74 is sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and six other institutes, centers, and offices of the NIH. Participants were recruited by field centers associated with academic institutions in the Bronx, NY; Chicago; Miami; and, San Diego, CA. The 40-page bilingual report also includes trends for each of the communities that were part of the study, nine things you can do for your health, and the Su Familia Helpline as a resource.

The study, which began in 2006, is scheduled to continue until 2019.

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