Punto Final: COVID-19 Pandemic and Latinos

By Norma G. Cuellar, PhD., RN, FAAN
President, National Association of Hispanic Nurses

In the last couple of weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, data has been presented that shows a great disproportion in the number of minorities who are dying from COVID-19 compared with white patients. Co-morbid risk factors (e.g. hypertension, diabetes, and obesity) along with the increased risks of the social determinants of health (SDOH) contribute to inadequate culturally congruent health care in Latinos.

There is a dire need to address problems related to the current COVID-19 pandemic in under-represented groups. Latinos make up the fastest-growing minority group in the United States. Health disparities continue to emerge as the pandemic continues to worsen in the country. Identifying social determinants of health will help us to prepare culturally sensitive interventions to educate, prevent, and treat COVID-19 in a culturally vulnerable population, thereby, reducing the harm to our Latinos in rural and urban areas and decreasing health care costs.

We must also not forget outbreaks in rural areas where the number of COVID-19 is increasing. Large numbers of Latinos live in rural areas which are high-risk areas for COVID-19, where migrant workers and older persons living with chronic health conditions live, and less health care infrastructure is seen. Rural hospitals are often not prepared to treat COVID-19 patients and often do not have the health care personnel or equipment. Latinos in rural areas are even more vulnerable with inadequate insurance, lack of access to health care, and few resources to combat the virus.

It is important to identify the social determinants of health in Latinos and understand both risk factors that determine health outcomes of the pandemic in Latinos. Using the Devers Epidemiological Model, we need to examine issues that contribute to the virus like human biology (physical, genetics, aging), lifestyle (customs, traditions, habits), environment (physical, biological, social, and spiritual), and health systems (health care access, availability, use, and services). Looking at all these variables will help us to truly address the issues relevant to the pandemic in Latinos. With this data, we can develop culturally sensitive interventions for Latinos throughout the country, specifically, as we anticipate second and possibly third waves of the pandemic.

Dr. Norma Cuellar has taught since 1989 in a variety of nursing programs. Her focus in teaching has been leadership, research, gerontology, and sleep. Dr. Cuellar is currently the editor in chief of the Journal of Transcultural Nursing. Dr. Cuellar has published in peer-review journals as well as several book chapters related to her research area: Restless Legs Syndrome, Sleep, Complementary and Alternative Health Care. Dr. Cuellar’s primary focus has been on Cultural Diversity. She is serving as the president of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (2018-2020). Dr. Cuellar is also the program director for the HRSA BAMA-L grant. In collaboration with the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, 80 Latino nurses with associate degree programs will be admitted to the CCNs RN to BSN program.