Residents in Predominately Hispanic Southern Texas Region Suffer Higher Rates of Disease, Report Finds
Residents in South Texas experience higher rates of certain communicable and chronic diseases and other health conditions than the rest of the state and the nation, according to a recent report, the McAllen Monitor reports (McEver, McAllen Monitor, 4/22). The region, located near the Mexican border, is about 80% Hispanic and is "marked by several urban centers and a large swath of rural counties with few doctors or health clinics," according to the San Antonio Express-News. The 147-page report was authored by Amelie Ramirez of the Institute for Health Promotion Research at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (Tumiel, San Antonio Express-News, 4/22).
Researchers compiled local, state and national data on 32 conditions and compared the statistics with health data on residents in 38 South Texas counties. In South Texas, 30% of residents were obese, compared with 25% of the rest of the state, and 9% of the residents in the region had diabetes, compared with 7% across the state, according to the report. Some types of cancer also were more common in the region. For example, 10 per 100,000 South Texas residents had liver cancer, compared with six per 100,000 in the rest of the state from 2000 to 2004. For childhood leukemia, there were 56 cases per one million children from 2000 to 2004, compared with 47 per one million statewide. In addition, there were nine tuberculosis cases per 100,000 residents in South Texas from 2001 to 2005, compared with seven per 100,000 statewide (McAllen Monitor, 4/22). The region also had higher rates of neural tube birth defects, chlamydia, and stomach and cervical cancers (San Antonio Express-News chart, 4/22).
According to the Express-News, disparities were particularly prevalent in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, where many residents live in crowded, substandard housing complexes called colonias. Leo Vela, dean of the Regional Academic Health Center, which is located in the valley, said many of the health issues in the colonias could be prevented through simple measures, such as installing screens on windows to keep disease-carrying mosquitoes from entering homes and educating residents about personal hygiene. Study author Ramirez said that some of the higher disease rates could be the result of genetic predispositions among minority groups but that lifestyle and environmental factors also play a role. She said the findings of the report will serve as a guide for the institute to establish prevention efforts (San Antonio Express-News, 4/22).
The report is available online (.pdf).