Limited English Proficiency and Latinos' Use of Physician Services

Published in: Medical Care Research and Review, v. 57, no. 1, Mar. 2000, p. 76-91

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2000

by Kathryn Pitkin Derose, David William Baker

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Many Latinos have limited English proficiency and this may negatively affect their use of health care services. To examine this, the authors interviewed 465 Spanish-speaking Latinos and 259 English speakers of various ethnicities who presented to a public hospital emergency department with nonurgent medical problems to assess previous physician visits, sociodemographic characteristics, and level of English proficiency. The proportion of patients who reported no physician visit during the 3 months before study enrollment was not related to English proficiency. However, among the 414 patients who saw a physician at least once, Latinos with fair and poor English proficiency reported approximately 22 percent fewer physician visits (p = 0.020 and p = 0.015, respectively) than non-Latinos whose native language was English, even after adjusting for other determinants of physician visits. The magnitude of the association between limited English proficiency and number of physician visits was similar to that for having poor health, no health insurance, or no regular source of care.

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