A study of Latino health

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
February 17, 2008 9:00:00 PM PST
Some people living in the Bronx are about to have their doors knocked on. The borough was chosen as part of a nationwide study on Latino health.Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

Health researchers will be knocking on doors to recruit 4,000 Latino residents to take part in an unprecedented landmark national study to get a health picture of Latinos in this country. The study might also shed light on an interesting mystery about heart disease.

Latinos are the largest minority in the country now. It's a community that shares language, but is also culturally varied. It's a community that generally has a high rate of obesity and diabetes, but surprisingly has a lower rate of heart disease.

That observation has come to be called the "Hispanic Paradox."

"The Hispanic Paradox is this notion that has been observed in some Hispanic/Latino U.S. populations," said Dr. Robert Kaplan, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "That the population has a high burdon of risk factors such as obesity and high blood pressure, yet surprisingly, there may be a lower risk of heart disease or of cancer."

It's an unproven hypothesis that may get cleared up.

Dr. Kaplan is a co-investigator of the project, called SOL, for Study of Latinos.

The researchers will check participants for conditions like asthma, heart disease, cholesterol and even sleep.

"They'll receive a very comprehensive physical examination, including things like blood pressure, hearing test, lung function tests and so on," Dr. Kaplan said.

It is all to provide badly needed answers.

Dr. Elizabeth Lee-Rey, from Montifiore Medical Center, is another co-investigator. She's been treating patients in the Bronx for nearly two decades.

Amongst Latinos, she sees changes where recent immigrants are healthier than the following generation born in the U.S. It's a health development that bears closer examination.

"Once they acculturate and become a part of the community, that they will embrace the community that they come to live in, that they all of the sudden become unhealthy," she said. "So I hope at the end of the day, both researchers and community and doctors will have a better understanding about Latino needs and Latino communities."

The study will also look at the potential health benefits from the close social and family networks among Latinos. The 4,000 participants will be from ages 18 to 74 and will be followed for the next eight years.

Program note: Please disregard Dr. Jay's comment about study participation. The researchers will be choosing the subjects.