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The rapid influx and new demographic patterns of Latino immigrants to the United States have precipitated numerous pressing issues, among them health and healthcare disparities. The relatively recent phenomenon of high Latino immigration rates to rural areas is increasingly common in the Midwest and Great Plains states, where they are drawn by the labor market. A rural setting, low socioeconomic status, and high concentrations of minorities have been shown to be closely intertwined, and such regions are often medically underserved. Such describes rural southwest Missouri, where we collected data in four counties on demographics, socioeconomic factors, healthcare perceptions, and use of medical services by Latino immigrants.
The health of a community is reflected by the health of its subpopulations, which are strongly impacted by socioeconomic factors. Results from several interviews and focus groups, and from our surveys of 300 Latino households, showed that low socioeconomic status and poor English proficiency are associated with frequent lack of regular preventive medical and dental care. Most respondents in our sample lack health insurance and commonly use low-cost clinics and health departments. We propose outreach efforts that emphasize preventive health care to better incorporate immigrants and augment their health status, and thus those of their communities at large.