Stony Brook University partners in $3.8M project to assess health disparities in Latino communities


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Stony Brook University is partnering with four universities to assess healthcare disparities in the Latino and migrant low-income communities. The research program is supported by a five-year $3.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

With this project, researchers will aim to assess the social and legal hurdles that that these populations face when receiving primary care medical services. Their work will include assisting medically underserved communities with the goal of improving access to primary care.

“Our main concern is that because health-harming legal needs serve as underlying, persistent barriers to primary care for Latinx and migrant communities, these populations often don’t receive the proper preventive care or treatments that control chronic conditions,” Miguel Muñoz-Laboy, Co-Principal Investigator and a Professor in the School of Social Welfare, said in a written statement.

“Some 85% of U.S. primary care providers report that unmet social and legal needs lead directly to negative health outcomes, so it is clear healthcare practitioners recognized the problem for which they do not have the capacity within the healthcare system to provide legal care,” Muñoz-Laboy added.

The study comes at a time when Latinos are the largest and fastest growing population in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, the latest national data indicates that healthcare disparities are widespread among Latino communities compared to non-Latino white populations. For example, Latino communities are 70% more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes. In these communities, men are twice as likely to die from HIV infection and women are 40% to be diagnosed with cervical cancer and 30% are more likely to die from it. In addition, Latinos are twice as likely to visit the emergency department for asthma.

At the same time HHS Office of Minority Health reports that this population has the highest uninsured rates of any racial or ethnic group in the country.

With this new study, researchers will look to address “health-harming legal needs” that impact communities struggling with cardiovascular disease and hypertension, diabetes, HIV, asthma, substance use disorders and other diseases.

The research team – which consists of social welfare, public health, legal and other experts from Stony Brook, Boston University, the University of Central Florida, George Washington University, and the University of Puerto Rico – will work with populations in urban locations where the Latinx and immigrant communities are prevalent: New York, Philadelphia and San Juan.

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