Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Latino Health Paradox

The L.A. Times has a story on a fascinating topic--the “Latino health paradox.” We have a tendency to assume that immigrants are poor and unhealthy, and therefore flood our E.R.s. But study after study (including my own work on Charlotte) has found that Latino immigrants are healthier than the rest of the population, and that in particular Latino women have fewer low weight babies and fewer premature babies.

My dad has done research on this as well (another is Rubén Rumbaut at U.C. Irvine). In fact, work on this topic has been done for so long that I remember as a teenger, making extra money by coding health questionnaires for my dad. One important conclusion is that once people are here in the U.S. for a while, they gradually lose those good health indicators. A traditional Mexican diet is much healthier than ours, but once here, people have more access to fast food and other cheap sources of empty calories and refined sugar. Interestingly, women who live in Latino enclaves tend to remain healthier, because they retain those healthier lifestyles. Then the children and grandchildren of those immigrants are far more likely to drink, take drugs, smoke, and get fat.

Maybe that just means they’re assimilating.


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