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Comparing the health status of Valley Latinos

Comparing the health status of Valley Latinos

Picture of Andrea Castillo
An infant gets measured as part of a health check
Photo courtesy of Flickr/Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank

The central San Joaquin Valley is home to a blend of immigrants -- those new to the country and those more established. 

As an agriculture hub, many Valley Latinos are recent immigrant farmworkers. Latinos are thought to arrive in the United States healthier and with fewer chronic issues than their next generation -- the so-called Latino health paradox -- but are less likely to have health insurance or access to care. Conversely, those living in urban areas along the Highway 99 corridor are said to have lived here longer, though concentrated in poor neighborhoods plagued with environmental pollutants. 

My fellowship project will compare the health status of Valley Latinos living in several urban communities to those living in rural towns. The project will touch on three general themes: The Latino health paradox, access to healthcare in urban and rural neighborhoods, and the difference in health risks and outcomes based on environmental factors present in different communities.

About half of the San Joaquin Valley population is Latino; some western portions of Fresno and Tulare counties are more than 90 percent Latino. Meanwhile, Latinos make up nearly 60 percent of California's uninsured. 

A recent Migration Policy Institute study estimates there are 75,000 unauthorized immigrants in Fresno County -- nearly 8% of the population. Non-citizens in Fresno County were nearly three times as likely to be uninsured for all or part of 2011 than U.S. born citizens, according to the California Health Interview Survey.

I plan to compare several zip codes (or combinations of zip codes) with the biggest Latino populations in Fresno and around the Valley based on data from the state EPA’s California Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool and from the California Health Interview Survey Neighborhood Edition. The CalEnviroScreen shows the Valley has eight of the 12 most environmentally burdened places in California, including four in Fresno. Data of the worst 5 percent of zip codes also shows many Valley communities are burdened, including Selma, Visalia, Hanford, Tulare, Fowler and Madera.

Among the questions I hope to answer: What are the environmental and health risks in Valley communities with the highest proportion of Latinos? Which Latino communities are most burdened by pollution and what does that do to their overall health? Which Latino communities are least burdened by pollution and how does their health compare? What is the difference in health status between urban and rural Latino communities?

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