Latina Maternal Health
The Hispanic Paradox describes the relatively positive Latino birth outcomes (specifically newly immigrated Mexican women) compared to African American counterparts despite social disadvantage. The Healthy Immigrant Theory offers the explanation that the healthiest Latinos are those most likely to emigrate to the U.S., thus resulting in positive birth outcomes regardless of poverty and barriers to healthcare. Both theories acknowledge that these protective factors seem to erode with subsequent generations.
Research has found that favorable birth outcomes (including but not limited to optimal birth weight and lower infant mortality) are associated with protective factors like culture and social support networks that lessen the stressors and risk behaviors associated with poverty. The cumulative impact of stressors and the protective factors of formal and informal systems contribute to a woman’s cumulative level of chronic stress resulting in declining health of the woman and increases her offspring’s vulnerability to poor birth outcomes like pre term labor and low birth weight.
Latinos make up 16% of the U.S. labor force. By 2020, Latinos are expected to comprise 19% of the U.S. labor force and 30% by 2050. The number of Latinos in the U.S. workforce more than doubled, from 10.7 million to 25.4 million workers between 1990 and 2014. A 137% increase dwarfed the 13% increase in the number of non-Hispanic workers.
We can project that as Latinas spend more time in the United States and experience increased and prolonged exposure to chronic stress their birth outcomes and those of their offspring could be negatively impacted. Further, with little investment in maternal and child health programming that addresses the needs of Latina mothers and their children we may see significant increases in morbidity among Latinos. A sicker population of Latinos will have direct implications on both healthcare expenditures and Latinos productivity in the labor force, which in turn could have critical consequences to the U.S. economy as a whole.
There needs to be long term investment in data collection, analysis and reporting of Latino health data as well as investment in programming and evaluation.
- Explicit inclusion of Latinos in research, programming and planning funds including Maternal and Child Health grants
- Investment in Latino research and co-created programming to meet the needs of Latinos