Understanding Determinants of Cardiovascular Health in a Mexican American Community

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Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in Hispanic Americans. Social and physical determinants of health unique to this community must be understood before interventions can be designed and implemented. This article describes a CVD risk assessment conducted in a primarily Mexican American community, using Healthy People 2020 as a model. Social (language, culture, awareness of CVD, and socio-economic status) and physical (presence and use of recreation areas, presence of grocery stores, public transportation, and environmental pollution) determinants of health as well as access to health services were assessed. Fifteen community leaders were interviewed using guided interviews. Database searches and direct observations were conducted. Using these methods provided comprehensive assessment of social and physical determinants of health, and access issues that were unique to the community studied. Findings demonstrated greater awareness of diabetes than CVD as a health problem, with little knowledge of CVD risk factors. Lack of access to health services (lack of insurance, lack of a medical home) and presence of cultural and socioeconomic barriers such as language, unemployment, low income, and lack of insurance were identified. The physical determinants such as environment presented fewer barriers, with adequate access to fruits and vegetables, transportation, and parks. Results revealed target areas for intervention.

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