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Language Affects Diabetes Care For Latinos In The US

Update Date: Jan 25, 2017 09:20 AM EST

A recent study has revealed that Latino patients with diabetes in the United States who are not very fluent in English are less likely to take prescribed medications. The findings were the same even when these patients consult a Spanish-speaking doctor.

Around 60 per cent of 31,000 diabetic patients who received insurance and healthcare from Kaiser Permanente in Northern California skipped filling in prescriptions at least 20 percent of the time in two years since their diagnosis. The percentage is lower for Latinos who speak English with 52 percent, while white patients have only 38 percent according to a study titled "Diabetes Medication Adherence, Language, Glycemic Control in Latino Patients."

Alicia Fernandez, lead study author and researcher at San Francisco General Hospital and at the University of California, San Francisco, believes that physicians taking care of Latinos with diabetes should focus on medication adherence and exert effort in exploring individual barriers. Factors for failure to comply could include lack of buy-in to medication treatment, side effects and cost concerns and other life demands that compete with medication use and self-care.

While the study did not see an improvement in medicine compliance with Latino patients consulting a Spanish-speaking physician, a separate study points out some benefits. In the study, 54 percent of 1,600 Latino patients consulted an English-speaking doctor. However, 48 percent of them later switched to a Spanish-speaking health care provider.

After the switch, 74 percent of the patients improved their blood sugar control for up to 63 percent. Melissa Parker, lead study author and researcher at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland California, believes that a doctor that speaks the same language as the patient is important. It can improve lines of communication, reduce risk of misunderstanding and increases patient satisfaction.

Dr. Eliseo Perez-Stable, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities director, said that there should be more Spanish-speaking and bilingual doctors. Establishing a treatment regimen for Latinos with diabetes should also be given utmost importance.

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