The mission of the Latino Center for Health is to provide leadership to promote the health and well-being of Latinos in Washington State, regionally and nationally, across the lifespan. The Latino Center will bring about sustainable changes in health through innovative community-engaged research, and mentorship and training opportunities for students and faculty, drawing upon the multidisciplinary scholarship from the tri-campuses of the University of Washington. Building on and deepening its community partnerships and the university’s expertise in health sciences, behavioral health, public health, and child welfare, the Latino Center will create a rich environment for nurturing the next generation of leaders who will respond to current and emerging health and behavioral health issues facing their communities. All efforts will be based on principles of social justice, human rights and inclusion respective of gender, country of nativity, documented status, sexual orientation and abilities. Key to the success of this Center is its partnerships with community stakeholders to translate research into evidence-based practices and policies that promote meaningful and sustainable improvements in health in culturally responsive ways.
Health and Health Access and Utilization
Latinos are an especially vulnerable population, and many factors may discourage them from accessing various forms of care. Not only is this under-utilization harmful to Latinos themselves, it puts the health of the larger community at risk as well. By increasing our understanding of the barriers to access and utilization Latinos face, we can reduce public health risks in entire communities and advance preventative health services. The Center will systematically address the impacts of ethnicity, language barriers, socioeconomic position, and migration history on health service utilization.
Latinos continue to have less access to mental health care and after entering care they face a higher risk of being misdiagnosed and are less likely to receive care that is consistent with evidence-based treatment recommendations. Mental health care remains a stigma within the Latino community with scarce bilingual and bicultural providers available to provide culturally responsive and informed care. Treatment of mental health symptoms is less understood and, with regards to medication, is less trusted. Other barriers persist, including lack of insurance, lack of transportation as well as acculturative and migration-related stress.
Lower-income Latino communities experience heightened risk for violence, including community violence. Parents and children exposed to such violence on a repetitive basis experience depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and difficulties succeeding in school. Latino youth are disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system at a substantial cost to society. In the child welfare system, Latino children tend to be younger at the referral and substantiation stage, are placed in out of home placement or enter state custody more quickly and spend a significantly longer period of time in foster care compared to White children. The Latino Center will systematically address risk factors that contribute to the prevalence of violence in communities and schools and protective factors that promote healthy relationships and safety.
Industries with particularly high densities of Latino workers present special problems for occupational health authorities and practitioners. These include pesticide exposure among migrant farmworkers, on-the-job injury protection, and immigrant workers’ use and non-use of worker’s compensation claims. A deeper understanding of the social and cultural factors that shape work-related behaviors can help regulators and service providers make workplaces safer.
Numerous public health issues are binational in character, including the market for medical coverage, chronic disease risk factors, and the transmission of infectious diseases. By deepening ties between Latin American countries and experts within Washington State, the Latino Center can encourage development of policies whose effectiveness is unconstrained by national political and administrative barriers. The Center will demonstrate how health care policies and practices directed at the Latino population can be improved through binational research, health promotion activities, and collaboration in program design and implementation.