Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

By Lucy Panza, DC Policy Intern

Two professors from Penn State and Northeastern University, in conjunction with the Department of Justice, have released the findings of a three-year long study of the rate of sexual and other forms of victimization of Latinas.  The Sexual Assault Among Latinas (SALAS) Study sought to fill in the dearth of social science research on Latina victimization specifically.  Approximately 1% of the published literature that looks at interpersonal victimization focuses on Latinos, the authors said.  And in a nation that is 14% Latino as of 2004, that is unacceptable.  As the report states, the goals of SALAS were:

  • Determine extent of sexual victimization in a sample of adult Latino females.
  • Determine the coexistence of other forms of victimization among those sexually victimized and the risk for subsequent victimization.
  • Examine formal service utilization among sexually victimized Latino women.
  • Examine informal help-seeking among sexually victimized Latino women.
  • Examine culturally-relevant factors associated with experience and responses to sexual violence.
  • Determine the psychosocial impact of sexual victimization on Latino women.
  • 2,000 Latinas were interviewed on the phone by “[t]rained professionals from an experienced survey research firm … in either English or Spanish.”  The participants were selected from a randomized list of land-line phone numbers, and they were paid $10 for their participation.  Counselors followed up with any participants who suffered emotionally from the interviews, which asked questions from preexisting social science questionnaires that seek to measure various symptoms of victimization like depression or anxiety.  The interviewers also asked about whether the participants sought formal or informal help.


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    By Nicole Catá, Policy Intern

    The Pew Research Center has released a report entitled Minorities and the Recession-Era College Enrollment Boom that chronicles the 2008 jump in U.S. college enrollment, the highest in four decades.  First, the good news, via the Huffington Post:

    The nation’s colleges are attracting record numbers of new students as more Hispanics finish high school and young adults opt to pursue a higher education rather than languish in a weak job market. […]  Almost three-quarters of the freshman increases in 2008 were minorities, of which the largest share was Hispanics.

    These increases are undoubtedly good news for Latino communities.  While the Pew Center attributes some of the spike in minority enrollment to demographic change, it is encouraging to know that Latino/as represent an increasingly larger percentage of college students.  Specifically, the report notes that “freshman enrollment of Hispanics in higher education jumped by 15 percent in 2008, compared to 8 percent for blacks, 6 percent for Asians and 3 percent for whites.”


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    Today, at the start of National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, we released Removing Stigma: Towards a Complete Understanding of Young Latinas’ Sexual Health, an up-to-date research analysis of young Latinas’ sexual health and the impact of current policies.

    The research is clear: traditional teen pregnancy prevention campaigns that rely on stigma and shame simply don’t work. Latinas and their families need health resources that recognize their unique experiences.

    Download the full report here and read the press release here.

    The report will be available in spanish shortly.

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    By Krystal Chan, Development and Communications Intern

    On March 31st, Senior Research Associate Liza Fuentes and I hosted our second spring semester brown bag lunch, “The Latino Health/Epidemiological Paradox…Does it really Exist?” The Latino Paradox does not have a robust definition but refers to statistical trends in which health outcomes do not match race/ethnicity or socioeconomic status. For Latinas this means that in some cases, despite our low socioeconomic environments, our health is comparable, or even better, than that of our non-Hispanic counterparts.

    It has been commonly known that Latinos suffer lower incidences of cardiovascular disease and have overall lower rates of infant and maternal mortality. However, when looking closer, we still see that Puerto Ricans have the second highest infant mortality rates in the country, falling just behind non-Hispanic Blacks. A recent study conducted by Luisa N. Borrell, and Natalie D. Crawford, has highlighted the importance of looking within the data to get to the truth. In their paper, they highlight that Latinos between the ages of 22-44 actually have a 31% greater overall mortality rate when compared to non-Hispanics with the same age.

    On the other hand, a study by the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at UCLA has shown that Japanese women no longer own the title of “longest-lived” group (at 83 years), but in fact, women living in southern Californian Latino communities have the longest life expectancy, at an average of 86 years.


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    By Zarah Iqbal, Policy Intern

    A report published by Amnesty International this month describes the dire situation of maternal health in the United States. According to this report, approximately half of the maternal deaths that occur in the US are easily preventable by access to quality maternal health care. This report goes hand in hand with the New York times report of the extremely high rates of cesarean section and induction of labor.

    Some key facts from the Amnesty report:

    • Maternal mortality rate in the US has more than doubled in the period between 1987 and 2006;
    • Women in the US have a higher risk of dying from pregnancy related causes than women in 40 other countries, despite the fact that the US spends more on health care than any other country in the world;
    • African-American women are almost four times as likely as white women in the US to die of pregnancy-related complications.

    In order to lower the risk of maternal deaths, women need access to quality prenatal care, care during delivery, and postpartum care. There are many barriers to accessing quality care. The first is the overwhelming number of Americans who are uninsured. Many women are unable to take time off from work, find transportation, or find childcare. Additionally, immigrant women are often unable to find healthcare services or information in languages other than English. (more…)

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    Woman getting a mammogram from a doctor or nurseThis week, Liza Fuentes (our Senior Research Associate) and I hosted our first spring semester brown bag, “Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines- Are They Really Throwing us Under the Bus Again?”

    In November 2009 the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released new recommendations for the screening of breast cancer. The most alarming changes where that women should not begin mammography screening until the age of 50, and that they should be done every other year instead of annually. The USPSTF also recommended AGAINST self-breast exams.

    So, what does this mean for Latinas? Well, seeing as how very little public education was done to communicate these new guidelines to the general public, chances are, these new guidelines have yet to reach our constituencies. We can also be sure that these guidelines did not take into account Latinas and our social economic status or our access to equitable health care.

    Although it is true that two thirds of breast cancer in Hispanic women are found through self-exam, according to a study presented in the US News, Hispanic women also tend to wait at least one month to see a doctor about it; the main reason being little to no access to health care. Also, of these two-thirds of Latinas, how many of them were able to access affordable and equitable treatment? As most articles have stated, detection is not prevention.

    The biggest problems with these guidelines were the way they were communicated and the timing of their release (during the tumultuous health care debate). In December, the USPSTF promised to update the language of the recommendations, but the damage had already been done.

    The bottom line is this: continue doing what you think is best for you! Talk to your doctor and come up with a screening schedule that you and your provider are 100% comfortable with. Last, trust your instincts because you are the only one who knows your body, so be your own health advocate!

    By Krystal Chan, Development and Communications Intern

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    Researchers are really good at coming up with questions. Sometimes, however, the answers they come up with are inappropriate. Let’s take for example work by Gail Wyatt, Ardis Moe and Don Guthrie called “The Gynecological, Reproductive, and Sexual Health of HIV-Positive Women.”

    The authors understandably want to understand how HIV positive women go about meeting their gynecological, reproductive and sexual health care needs. What services support them and what blocks access to services are no doubt critical questions. My problem lies with the answers they develop.

    Complicated questions about how and why certain people end up with HIV obviously have complicated answers. The authors contend that ethnic differences exist among HIV positive women that mirror ethnic variation among HIV negative women in terms of sexual behaviors and reproductive health care management. Maybe that’s true, maybe it isn’t. The authors have what researchers call an endogeniety problem. Endogeneity happens when the independent variable is correlated with the error.

    Basically all this fancy jargon just means that the researchers didn’t include an important factor that has a relationship with a factor they did include. For example, let’s say you and I were doing a research project on women’s health experiences. We decide to ask women in a hospital waiting room to fill out a survey and do interviews with us. We have and endogeneity problem here because we’re only speaking to women who have the means and spare time to get to the hospital. We might be missing a factor like “easily accessible transportation” or a“job with paid time off” that would ultimately be really helpful in helping us understand women’s health care experiences in New York City.

    Authors Wyatt, Moe and Guthrie have a major endogeneity problem because they only work with women already involved with a hospital. They also have some problems with unclear terms and small sample sizes, but endogeneity is their biggest problem. Since we can’t tell what their research means for women in Los Angeles (where their study takes place). Unfortunately they reach problematic conclusion because their approach is filled with errors. Let’s make sure to keep a critical key on research!

    By Adrienne Wallace, Research Intern

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    According to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child:

    States…should ensure the rights of the female and male adolescents to sexual and reproductive health education…in specially designed programs that respect their right to privacy and confidentiality.

    The United States and Somalia are the only countries in the world that have not ratified this treaty. The relevance of this non-ratification may seem unclear, but work by R. Cook and BM Dickens in the International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, highlights problems that youth face when trying to obtain health education and healthcare. Consider the fact that in Texas:

    Not even young parents in Texas can get birth control without their own parents’ permission at nearly a third of the family planning clinics on contract with the state health department.

    Basically, a teen parent might end up making medical decisions for her child or for her children, but is still unable to obtain birth control for herself. Here’s a really important place for researchers who are interested in getting to the bottom of things to jump in. Instead of asking questions about whether or not teens and young adults have the ‘ability’ to make decisions about their own reproductive healthcare, we might consider asking what barriers are in place that prevent young parents from accessing the healthcare they need.

    Research questions are just as important as research answers. Cook and Dickens talk a lot about and explain three things States should do (respect, protect, and fulfill healthcare rights) to ensure that youth have access to reproductive healthcare. The fact remains, however, that from their work we can’t understand why healthcare isn’t working and what could immediately be better about healthcare services. It’s crucial to include youth in these types of discussion since they know what’s not working and have crucial ideas about what might work. Youth and community driven research have their work cut out for them – and apparently, so does Texas!

    By Adrienne Wallace, Research Intern

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    Nationally, one-third of women self-identify as a member of a racial or ethnic minority group and it is estimated that this will grow to more than half by 2045. As the country becomes more racially and ethnically diverse, there is a growing recognition of the need to understand racial and ethnic disparities in health status and access to care.

    A new report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, “Putting Women’s Health Care Disparities on the Map: Examining Racial and Ethnic Disparities at the State Level,” documents the persistence of disparities between white women and women of color across the country and on a broad range of indicators of health and well-being, including rates of diseases, such as diabetes, AIDS and cancer, as well as access to health insurance and preventive screenings.

    According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, women of color consistently fared worse than white women across a broad range of measures in almost every state, and in some states, these disparities were quite stark.

    For Hispanic women, access and utilization were consistent problems, even though they fared better on some health status indicators, such as smoking and cancer mortality. A greater share of Latinas than other groups lacked insurance coverage, did not have a personal doctor/health care provider, and delayed or went without care because of cost. Latinas were also disproportionately poor and had low educational status, factors that contribute to their overall health and access to care. The large population of Latina immigrants do not qualify for publicly funded insurance programs like Medicaid even if in the U.S. legally, and some have language barriers that make access and health literacy a greater challenge.

    This report highlights the need for policy-makers to look beyond national statistics to the state level in order to gain a better understanding of where challenges are the greatest or different, and to determine how to shape policies that can ultimately eliminate racial and ethnic disparities.

    For more information, the report can be found here.

    by Ivette Sanchez, Policy and Advocacy Intern

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    A new Pew Hispanic report concluded that are 8.8 million people who are living in mixed-status households, meaning that people in the same family have different immigration statuses–born and naturalized U.S. citizens, documented immigrants, and undocumented immigrants. They also note that 76% of undocumented immigrants are Latino.


    This report highlights the tremendous impact that anti-immigrant policies have of the reproductive health of Latinas and their families.


    • Immigration raids, meant to brutally intimidate immigrant communities, result in nonsensically separating parents from their children based in immigration status and often place pregnant and breastfeeding women in detention where they cannot access prenatal care or pump milk.
    • Eligibility for public health insurances like Medicaid and CHIP have excluded documented immigrants for their first 5 years in the U.S., and immigrants with no documentation have almost no access to affordable health care except in the most serious emergencies, like childbirth. For Latin@s in mixed-status households, some are afraid that accessing the care they are eligible for may put at risk the safety of a family member who is undocumented. It also means that some family members are arbitrarily left without any access to health care at all. For Latinas who want to plan for or prevent pregnancy, and get the best care possible for the children they are raising,  policies that cut out immigrants from the health care system are undermining their health and well-being.

    There is some promising news: this article reports that immigration raids “have slowed to a near halt.” But the reproductive justice community must join others in holding the Obama Administration accountable for ensuring that raids stop completely – not just so the census goes smoothly, but so that health and human rights of Latinas and their families are ensured.


    Additionally, the new CHIPRA law has removed the 5 year bar on Medicaid and CHIP eligibility for documented immigrants who are children and pregnant women. Again this is only promising news- it is up to the states to take up this policy and extend health care coverage to more immigrant women and children under this law. Reproductive justice activists must take this opportunity to mobilize to hold their state governments accountable for doing so.


    –Liza Fuentes, Senior Research Associate

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