Hispanic Heritage Month: Providing Inclusive, Culturally Sensitive Care

September 22, 2022 | by Jodi McCaffrey
Hispanic Heritage Month: Providing Inclusive, Culturally Sensitive Care

Hispanics and Latinos are the second-largest racial group in the United States after non-Hispanic whites, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In fact, during the last 10 years, this group swelled from 50.5 million people in 2010 to 62.1 million in 2020 — an increase of 23%.

Pediatrix® Medical Group is committed to providing inclusive care that forges deeper and more meaningful connections with our patients and allows us to have a more significant impact on the communities we serve. In addition to supporting clinicians from diverse backgrounds and ensuring our teams reflect the diversity seen in our patient populations, we strive to provide inclusive, culturally sensitive care that recognizes and respects the cultural differences that make the Hispanic and Latinx communities unique.

Why Inclusive Care Matters

Hispanics are defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as people of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South American, Central American or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race. The group currently comprises 18.7% of the U.S. population.

Hispanics and Latinx patients experience higher rates of several health conditions, including heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, HIV/AIDS, obesity and liver disease, according to HHS’s Office of Minority Health. In addition, this group also experiences higher rates of some maternal-fetal complications, according to Office of Minority Health research:

  • Hispanic mothers are 80% as likely to receive late or no prenatal care than non-Hispanic white mothers.
  • Central and South American mothers were 2.5 times as likely to receive late or no prenatal care than non-Hispanic white mothers.
  • While the rate of low-birth-weight infants is lower for the total Hispanic population compared to non-Hispanic whites, Puerto Rican Americans have a low-birth-weight rate that is almost twice that of non-Hispanic whites.
  • Puerto Ricans also disproportionately experience infant loss. In fact, Puerto Ricans have a 20% higher infant mortality rate than non-Hispanic whites. Further, Puerto Rican infants are 2.5 times as likely to die from causes related to maternal complications.

However, the data also provides some encouraging news: the 2020 life expectancies at birth for Hispanics are 84.2 years for women and 79.9 years for men, compared with 82.7 years for non-Hispanic white women and 78.4 years for non-Hispanic white men.

Overcoming Barriers with Inclusive Care

Health disparities among Hispanics are fueled by barriers to care, such as lack of adequate health insurance, lack of access to preventive care, immigration status concerns and language and cultural barriers, according to experts.

The Pediatrix teams who serve Hispanic patients strive to provide compassionate, inclusive and equitable care. Pediatrix Medical Group offers all of its practices access to a national Language Line that can put providers and patients in touch with interpreters who speak more than 50 languages. On a local level, practices throughout the organization have taken steps to ensure clear communication.

For example, to better serve the nearly one-third of their patients who prefer Spanish, Pediatrix Cardiology of San Antonio provides all of its patient forms in both English and Spanish and ensures there are native speakers in the office who can provide interpreting services if needed. In fact, out of the practice’s 40 employees, 18 are bilingual.

“Communicating with patients in their language of choice helps us make sure our families fully understand the care process,” explained Karen Everest, practice manager.

The same is true at Pediatrix Urology of San Antonio and Pediatrix Orthopedics of San Antonio, which ensures patient forms and educational materials are also available in Spanish.

“It’s important that all of our Spanish-speaking patients understand the services we offer and that we provide the same level of service to everyone, regardless of ethnicity,” said Carlos Cerda, practice manager.

The majority of the staff at both clinics — 90% — are fluent in Spanish.

In the neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) where the clinicians of Pediatrix® Neonatology of San Antonio provide care, the practice works with each hospital’s labor and delivery staff to ensure all family members that a patient requests to be in her room are accommodated.

“In the Hispanic culture, family is very important,” explained Isabel M Basaldu-Prado, M.D., FAAP, a neonatologist with the practice. “We make sure patients have whomever they want in their rooms. If it gets to be too much and mom looks overwhelmed, I’ll ask her if she wants to get some rest and suggest that her guests come back later. I make it a point to let moms know how blessed they are to have such a support system.”

At St. Luke’s Baptist Hospital in San Antonio, in particular, Dr. Basaldu-Prado and her team often hold sit-down family conferences. During these meetings, every member of a patient’s family has an opportunity to learn more about the care plan and ask any questions. If a native Spanish speaker isn’t available at the hospital, staff can use a translation app on an iPad to video conference with a translator or a hospital-provided, phone-based translation service.

All patient education materials, from brochures about premature birth and breastfeeding to information about the practice’s staff and available support services, are in Spanish. The team also asks each patient about their religious preferences and tries to accommodate their spiritual needs. In fact, the hospital is home to a chaplain from Venezuela who can speak with Hispanic patients in their preferred language. Additionally, patients have access to Spanish-language TV channels while in the hospital.

When renovating its women’s center, Dr. Basaldu-Prado worked with the hospital to develop Spanish-language TV ads to promote the unit. She’s also filmed ads about the benefits of breastfeeding and COVID-19 safety in Spanish.

“I try to speak in Spanish whenever possible if that’s what the patient or family prefers,” said Dr. Basaldu-Prado. “I want patients to know that we’re here for them, that we speak the same language — literally. I’ve noticed that whenever I speak with a Hispanic family in Spanish, they seem to feel more comfortable.”

At discharge, the practice encourages parents to read to their children at home and provides Spanish-language books to encourage the habit. And, because Dr. Basaldu-Prado has deep roots in the community, she can direct patients and families to other Spanish-speaking providers for follow-up or specialty care.

“It’s extremely important for patients to see themselves reflected in their caregivers,” Dr. Basaldu-Prado explained. “It empowers parents and children to know that their provider understands them, their culture and where they’re from. It makes a big difference.”