By Guadalupe Guzmán and Jonathan Gonzalez
What makes visiting the doctor such a potentially dreadful experience for Chicano/Latinos? The question of going to be seen by a doctor doesn’t normally arise when one needs to go, and it often leads to finding out crucial information about one’s health that usually comes too late. Although many would wager to say that the fear is attributed to a phobia, the reality is that the fear is linked to anxiety that stems from various other issues.
The fact that Latinos are not significantly visiting the doctor has never been more apparent than it has been in recent years. According to a study done by the Center for Disease Control, when viewing the numbers of emergency room visits in 2014, Hispanics made up only 15.39% of all visits in the United States. The numbers are saying, that even though going a visit to the emergency room consists of circumstances that can’t wait, Hispanics would rather stay at home and deal with the problem themselves.
Because of the selective negligence, we have also seen a rise in illnesses that could have potentially been avoided had the doctor been visited. By following a physician’s advice and scheduling an appointment at least twice a year, the patient would be able to keep track of their health and how it is progressing. As it currently stands, a study done by the American Diabetes Association has shown that the “prevalence of total diabetes among all Hispanic/Latino groups was roughly 16.9% for both men and women, compared to 10.2 percent for non-Hispanic whites.” The association also claimed that the numbers were linked to “a low rate of diabetes awareness, diabetes control and health insurance.”
The fear of scheduling an appointment, or going to the doctor, is often considered to be attributed to latrophobia, which is a fear of doctors and treatment centers. Contrary to this belief, the fear actually stems from anxiety brought on by a lack of knowledge, a language gap between doctor and patient, and from a lack of financial stability. Collectively, Latinos choose not to go to a doctor because they often either misunderstand or don’t understand what the doctor is telling them. This can be attributed to either a lack of knowledge of basic medical terminology or to a language gap. A visit to the doctor is not a pleasant one because one is often going to get themselves checked out to make sure that they are in good health, however, the possibility of something being wrong is looming over them. If there is a chance of receiving unwelcome news, one would prefer to be in an environment in which they feel as comfortable as they possibly can. The fact that most doctors only speak English, can make patients feel uncomfortable as they will be spending their time trying to decipher what the doctor is trying to explain to them.
Lastly, the big issue that plagues our community, is a lack of insurance. The topic of immigration neighbors the issues at hand because Latino’s fear that if they are in the United States undocumented, then their situation will be brought to light if they attempt to sign up for basic government medical insurance; this has only worsened now that the Trump Administration has come into power. Even the number of people going to clinics has decreased exponentially because of the fear of deportation or government action against them. As it is, Latino wages lack financial stability that a rise in the cost of medication in recent years has caused an even bigger decline in medical visits. Latinos fear that the medication that they will be prescribed will be out of their budget. According to an Atlantic article, “Why Many Latinos Dread Going to the Doctor,” many prefer “treating [oneself] without a professional doctor’s help.” The treatment then varies between different herbal or “home” remedies that may not be effective. Not to say, they home remedies do not work.
The issue then becomes, “how exactly do we help ourselves overcome this ‘fear’.” There are many obstacles that we must overcome, but the main thing that we have to focus on should be education. We need to educate ourselves as to the events that ensue as consequences for not visiting the doctor. We also need to educate ourselves about the different financial opportunities that are available in terms of finding programs that help people get the medical assistance they need without the fear of being turned over to the government.
Lastly, we also need to become educated and become doctors ourselves. The Latino community is greatly underrepresented when it comes to Latino doctors. If there were more Latino doctors, the community would feel more at ease going to see a doctor that they can relate to. It is important to realize that, as we become educated and grow as a people, we should understand that we are not only seeking this knowledge to better inform ourselves, but also to empower ourselves.