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Am J Med. 2011 Oct;124(10 Suppl):S10-5. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2011.07.018.

Understanding the Hispanic/Latino patient.

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Joslin Diabetes Center, 1 Joslin Place, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA. .


The Hispanic/Latino population is the largest minority group in the United States, representing approximately 16% of the population in 2010. The US Census Bureau defines Hispanic/Latino origin as ethnicity, which tends to be associated with culture and is distinct from race. Based on the US Census Bureau classifications, Hispanics/Latinos have at least 3 main racial backgrounds (white, black, and Native Indian), with the combination and proportion differing among Hispanic/Latino subgroups. The reflection of these racial differences in genetic ancestry partly explains why biological characteristics differ among Hispanic/Latino subgroups. Partly as a result of variations in biological characteristics, the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus varies among Hispanic/Latino subgroups. According to data from the 1982 to 1984 Hispanic Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (HHANES), the prevalence of diagnosed and undiagnosed type 2 diabetes among adults aged 45 to 74 years was higher in Mexican Americans (23.9%) and Puerto Ricans (26.1%) compared with Cubans (15.8%). In addition to genetics, there are multiple social and cultural factors that affect the prevalence and course of type 2 diabetes in Hispanic/Latino individuals. Although certain aspects of Hispanic/Latino culture may become barriers in the management of type 2 diabetes in this population, these cultural characteristics may also represent an opportunity for prevention and/or improvement of care. It is important for healthcare providers to have an understanding and appreciation of Hispanic/Latino culture in order to provide their Hispanic/Latino patients with healthcare that is culturally and socially appropriate. Only by considering genetic, social, and cultural factors can type 2 diabetes be successfully prevented, treated, and managed in Hispanic/Latino patients.

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