Selected Measures of Health Status for Mexican-American, Mainland Puerto Rican, and Cuban-American Children

Published In: JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association, v. 265, no. 2, Jan. 9, 1991, p. 227-232

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 1991

by Fernando Mendoza, Stephanie J. Ventura, R. Burciaga Valdez, Ricardo O. Castillo, Laura Escoto Saldivar, Katherine Baisden, Reynaldo Martorell

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The 1987 National Vital Statistics System and the Hispanic Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1982 through 1984) were used to assess the health status of Mexican-American, mainland Puerto Rican, and Cuban-American children by examining the prevalences of pregnancy outcomes and chronic medical conditions. The low-birth-weight rate among Hispanics (7.0%) compared favorably with that of non-Hispanic whites (7.1%) despite the greater poverty and lower levels of education among Hispanics. When examined by Hispanic subgroup, however, significant differences were present, with mainland Puerto Ricans having the highest prevalences of low-birth-weight infants. Premature births were more common among all three Hispanic subgroups than among non-Hispanic whites. Mexican-American and Cuban-American children had a similar prevalence of (3.9% and 2.5%, respectively) chronic medical conditions compared with non-Hispanic white children; Puerto Rican children had a higher prevalence of chronic medical conditions (6.2%). When assessed by these health status indicators, Hispanic children seem to have a health status similar to non-Hispanic white children. However, mainland Puerto Rican children seem at greater risk for poor health, reflecting the US Hispanic population's heterogeneity. Health programs targeted at US Hispanics should appropriately consider these group differences.

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