According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Hispanic population is forecast to grow 43 percent by 2020 vs. 14 percent for the general population. Along with this growth will come a need for increased oral health services and education, coupled with an effort to address significant oral health disparities in this population.
One of the DentaQuest Foundation’s newly-updated Oral Health 2020 goals is that by 2020, 85 percent of children will reach age five without having a cavity. According to recently released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 77 percent of children today reach this critical milestone. However, that success is not evenly distributed across racial and ethnic groups.
In fact, according to the CDC, one of the greatest racial and ethnic oral health disparities among children ages 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 is seen in Mexican-American children.
Furthermore, when it comes to the adult population, the overall Hispanic population experiences poorer oral health when compared to other racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. Since oral health is a crucial part of overall health, this has broad implications.
It’s important to understand the cultural, environmental, behavioral, and other factors that create health disparities and bar groups from receiving oral health care.
For example, migrant families have the tendency to think of themselves as “one unit,” and sometimes they do not access available health care programs because they assume that if one member does not qualify to receive health care, neither does the rest of the family. Alternately, from the health care point of view, thinking of the Hispanic family as “one unit” doesn’t always apply to migrant families, as it is common for these families to be mixed and have members who are U.S. citizens, U.S. residents, or have pending legal status. Therefore, different health programs could be available to different family members and providers and outreach programs should take this into account in their approaches.
We must address the collective disparities that impact the Hispanic and other communities, and it is also important to be mindful of the uniqueness of each Hispanic family. Doing so will help us reach our goal for 2020.