Cultural Competence in Hispanic Heart Healthcare

Belén Dumont

Rhode Island Latino News produces and amplifies stories focused on the responses to the social determinants of health. A key social determinant, Health Access & Quality is defined as the extent to which people have equitable, affordable and available access to needed healthcare services. This definition includes both physical accessibility and availability via financial means, transportation options, and other factors.

February is American Heart Month, which calls attention to our heart health and risk factors for Cardiovascular disease—the leading cause of death in the U.S. and a leading cause of death for Hispanic and Latino residents across Rhode Island

Heart disease causes 1 out of every 5 deaths in the U.S. In 2020, it was responsible for about 15.8 percent of deaths among Hispanics, according to the CDC.

National research conducted in 2021 showed that Hispanic individuals continue to have higher rates of hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, and diabetes—all risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

However, racial disparities in heart health are nothing new. The American Heart Association issued a scientific statement back in 2014 that called for more culturally competent prevention efforts aimed toward Hispanics/Latinos. 

“Healthcare professionals and researchers need to consider the impact of culture and ethnicity on health behavior and ultimately health outcomes,” reads the statement. “There is a need to tailor and develop culturally relevant strategies to engage Hispanics in cardiovascular health promotion…”  

“Hispanic/Latino adults in the United States have high prevalence and awareness of vascular risk factors but low adherence to secondary stroke prevention strategies,” according to the 2021 study.   

As Rhode Island’s Hispanic population continues to rapidly grow, accessible and culturally informed services and resources on heart health are crucial. 

Over the past decade, the Hispanic or Latino population has increased by nearly 40 percent, according to the US Census Bureau.

“When healthcare providers are fluent in Spanish and demonstrate cultural understanding of the Hispanic culture, an ideal communication and emotional connection between patients and providers is established, fostering trust and empathy,” according to Dr. Jorge M. Balaguer of Stony Brook Medicine.  

Medical experts emphasize the importance of prevention and education on heart health. Individuals can greatly lower their risk for heart complications through maintaining healthy lifestyles and monitoring their blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. 

Local Resources Include … 

The Immigrant Coalition of Rhode Island highlights a variety of healthcare services available to immigrants across the state on their website

Included on the list, Clínica Esperanza in Providence has multilingual staff and volunteers who provide culturally-informed medical care to uninsured adults in Rhode Island. The free clinic offers management of chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. 

For more informational resources of heart health and its connection to diabetes, Progreso Latino offers educational videos, screening tests, and other services like its Diabetes Prevention Program.

General Informational Links