Published: April 29, 2016 By

How Chronic Illnesses Impact Hispanic Immigrants

Hispanic immigrants face many obstacles when they come to the U.S., including employment and assimilating to American culture. But most immigrants must also fight to maintain their health in their new environment.

In the following graphics, CU News Corps looked at the challenges that immigrants and health care providers face with regards to asthma, a condition that Hispanics are particularly susceptible to.

The "Healthy Immigrant Effect"

Horizontal bar graph displaying the 'Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease Death Rates in Hispanic Countries'


In order, the most common countries of origin for Hispanic immigrants are Mexico, El Salvador, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala. Hispanic immigrants come to the U.S. with relatively low rates of chronic diseases like asthma, but these rates tend to increase after multiple generations.

Access to Health Care

Part-time employees and employees of sufficiently small businesses are not legally guaranteed health insurance. The Affordable Care Act also does not allow undocumented immigrants to access public health insurance plans. As a result, many Hispanic immigrants suffering from asthma rely on emergency room treatment by clinicians untrained in dealing with these high-risk groups. Language and cultural barriers often prevent immigrants from receiving the education necessary to manage their asthma.

Pie chart displaying the 'Insurance Status of Adult Non-Hispanics (2011)'


Pie chart displaying the 'Insurance Status of Adult Hispanics (2011)'


Substandards of Living

Bar graph displaying the 'Pesticide Concentrations in Most Exposed Individuals'


The jobs that most Hispanics can get after reaching the U.S. tend to be in areas where pollution is higher, exacerbating the symptoms of their asthma. Though employment among Hispanics is comparable to other groups, they make up 88 percent of the agricultural workforce, where exposure to pesticides, toxic gases and mold is common. Occupational lung disease is the number one killer for Hispanic farm workers. Additionally, two-thirds of Hispanics live in areas that do not meet government air quality standards. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in four Hispanic children living in these conditions will be diagnosed with asthma, and will be three times as likely as their white peers to die from it.

Credit: Justice “Nick” Burnaugh (Narration, Audio Production/Editing); Amanda Cary (Audio Production/Editing, Writing); Max Levy (Audio Production, Writing, Web Development); and Erin Sullivan (Writing, Web Development).