Stony Brook in Groundbreaking Partnership Addressing Healthcare Disparities

Five universities receive $3.8M NIH grant focusing on Latinx and migrant low-income communities

A unique initiative to address the many healthcare disparities in the Latinx and migrant low-income communities will assess the social and legal hurdles that that these populations face when receiving primary care medical services. The project involves researchers from Stony Brook University and four other universities. They will work to assistant these medically underserved communities in order to improve access to primary care. The research program is supported by a five-year $3.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD).

Latinx are the largest and fastest growing population in the U.S. The study will specifically address the growing health-harming legal needs impacting vulnerable communities greatly affected by diseases such as cardiovascular disease and hypertension, diabetes, HIV, asthma, substance use disorders, and others.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, the latest national data indicates that healthcare disparities are widespread among Latinx communities compared to non-Latinx white populations. Some of these glaring differences include the following: Latinx adults are 70 percent more likely than non-Latinx white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes; Latinx men are twice as likely to die from HIV infection than non-Latinx white men; Latinxs are twice as likely to visit the emergency department for asthma as compared to non-Latinx whites; Latinx women are more 40 percent more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer and 30 percent more likely to die from it than non-Latinx white women.

Additionally, the HHS Office of Minority Health reports that the Latinx population has the highest uninsured rates of any racial or ethnic group in the U.S. In 2020, the Census Bureau reported that nearly 50 percent of Latinxs had private insurance coverage, as compared to nearly 74 percent on non-Latinx whites.

“Our main concern is that because health-harming legal needs serve as underlying, persistent barriers to primary care for Latinx and migrant communities, these populations often don’t receive the proper preventive care or treatments that control chronic conditions,” said Miguel Muñoz-Laboy, co-principal investigator and a professor in the Stony Brook School of Social Welfare. “Some 85 percent of U.S. primary care providers report that unmet social and legal needs lead directly to negative health outcomes, so it is clear healthcare practitioners recognized the problem for which they do not have the capacity within the healthcare system to provide legal care.”

Maria E. Torres, assistant professor in the School of Social Welfare, is a co-investigator in the project. The research team – which consists of social welfare, public health, legal and other experts from Stony Brook, Boston University, the University of Central Florida, George Washington University, and the University of Puerto Rico – will work with populations in urban locations where the Latinx and immigrant communities are prevalent: New York, Philadelphia and San Juan.

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