Health Profile

For more information on Latino health, please check our Blueprint for Latino Health in Montgomery County Maryland, 2008-2012.

Health Snapshot

  • When looking specifically at the currently available mortality data, it appears at first glance that Latinos in Maryland are generally healthy compared to other populations. However, as we establish later, these data are unreliable or missing and therefore it is impossible to draw conclusions about Latino mortality or the true magnitude of disease occurrence among Latinos with any definitiveness.
  • Higher morbidity rates among Latinos point to the need for improved chronic disease prevention, treatment, and management, particularly because Latinos are disproportionately uninsured and have limited access to linguistically and culturally competent care.
  • As Latinos acculturate, their health deteriorates due to poorer eating habits, less physical activity, and increased smoking and drug/alcohol abuse. Economic constraints limit access to many healthy food options, forcing consumption of alternatively cheap yet calorie-dense and nutrition-poor food. Latinos tend to be concentrated in communities that discourage physical activity because of a concern over safety, particularly in recreational areas for children.
  • Despite Latino populations being younger on average than the general United States population, the array of risk factors described above demonstrates that as Latinos age, there will be an increase in chronic diseases (e.g., diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, asthma, hypertension, osteoarthritis).

Major Barriers to Latino Health

The lack of access to health care services is the top barrier to Latinos’ being able to maximize their health potential. During focus groups, low-income Montgomery County Latinos also listed the need for inexpensive health insurance, better access to quality health care, and continuity of care as top priorities.

Latino Access to Health Care Barriers

  1. Lack of health insurance
  2. Lack of culturally and linguistically competent services
  3. Eligibility issues (lack of understanding of eligibility requirements)
  4. Unavailability of adequate transportation, limited hours of operation, continuity of care

Severe Data Limitations

  1. Under-representation
  2. Combination of sub-populations among Latinos
  3. No distinction made between foreign-born, native-born, and country of origin
  4. Data incompleteness (missing, misclassified, inaccurate)

Other Aspects of Health

  • Mental health professionals note that Latinos face many obstacles to accessing mental health care, including a lack of: culturally and linguistically competent mental health resources, services, and residential treatment facilities; knowledge of available resources; health insurance; sensitivity by emergency department personnel regarding mental health issues; and services to treat the chronically mentally ill. In addition, fragmentation of existing mental health services does not help matters.
  • Latinos are particularly vulnerable to depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, arising from family separation issues, social isolation, moving to a new country, and the ramifications of war in their countries of origin.

Websites and Reports on Latino Health


  • Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Center for Cancer Surveillance and Control, Maryland Cancer Survey, Montgomery County Latino Cancer Survey: A Survey of Cancer Screening and Behavioral Risk Factors among Latinos in Montgomery County, 2005. Retrieved April 2009 from
  • Maryland Cancer Registry, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Family Health Administration, Center for Cancer Surveillance and Control. Retrieved April 2009

Cultural Competency

Data Collection:

Regenstein M, Sickler D. Race, Ethnicity, and Language of Patients: Hospital Practices Regarding Collection of Information to Address Disparities in Health Care, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2006. Retrieved April 2009 from


Health and Nutrition:

Maryland Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Retrieved April 2009

Health Care:


Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, The Maryland 2005 HIV/AIDS Annual Report, AIDS Administration, Retrieved April 2009 from

Physical Activity:

Carter-Pokras O, Kelley E, Mora S, Crespo C. Supporting physical activity among Latina adolescents. Journal of Latino-Latin American Studies 2006; 2 (2):33-47. Retrieved June 2009 from

  • Abstract:
    This article assesses knowledge, attitudes, barriers, and enhancers to participation in physical fitness programs among Latina adolescents and their parents. Research was based on five focus groups of 12-18 year old Latina adolescents and their parents conducted in Montgomery County, Maryland. Latina adolescents and their parents have a positive concept of exercise and physical activity, support the development of physical fitness programs for Latina adolescents, and believe there are too few programs available to Latina adolescents in Montgomery County and that the programs available to them are cost prohibitive. Other barriers to improving physical activity include lack of transportation, parental English ability, homework, being tired, needing encouragement, not having time, program staff and neighborhood safety concerns, wanting to sleep, lack of a volleyball court, and home chores. Latina adolescents and their parents are knowledgeable of physical activity benefits, and support the development of programs to improve physical fitness among Latina adolescents.


Maryland State Community Health Administration, Division of Tuberculosis Control, Refugee and Migrant Health. Retrieved April 2009 from

Social Determinants of Health:

Wilkinson R, Marmot M. World Health Organization, Social Determinants of Health: The Solid Facts, 2003. Retrieved April 2009 from