Barriers to Diabetes Care for Hispanics

Traditionally meal with salad for diabetes care.

Minorities are already at a disadvantage concerning diabetes prevention and management. Hispanics, in particular, have a high risk of becoming diabetic. Gaining awareness about the barriers to diabetes care can help prevent/manage your diabetes.

Economic Status Barriers

Many of the barriers to diabetes care come from a person’s economic status. The lower a person’s economic status, the more barriers to diabetes care that person has. This puts minorities at a disadvantage because they make up most of the lower socioeconomic population.

One common barrier in this category is citizenship status. If a person is an illegal citizen, then they are less likely to seek help for their diabetes or prediabetes because they fear deportation. The same goes for their family, even if a family member is a US citizen, they may be hesitant to seek help out of fear of putting their family at risk.

Another barrier to diabetes care in this category is access to health insurance. Many people in the lower economic classes do not have access to health insurance. Hispanics have one of the highest uninsured rates among other races and ethnic groups. Not being insured limits the places a person can go to seek treatment or preventative treatment. If you do not have health insurance, you can:

  • Try going to a free health clinic that accepts people without insurance. List of free health clinics in Dallas, Texas can be found here. You can also go here to search nationwide.
  • Join free community programs that help people with diabetes or people wanting to prevent getting diabetes. An example of one community program is offered by Yumlish and is a free one-year nutrition program for diabetes prevention that can be found here.
  • Make lifestyle changes like dieting and exercise.

Culture and Tradition Barriers

Not every barrier to diabetes care is related to economic status, culture and tradition also contributes to creating barriers.

Cultural Misconceptions

Some people in Hispanic cultures have misconceptions concerning diabetes. One frequently cited is that diabetes is out of a person’s control. Since diabetes is out of their control, they cannot do anything to prevent it. One example of this is the misperception that a traumatic event causes a person to have diabetes. While a traumatic event can increase the chance a person has to get diabetes, they can help prevent getting diabetes by making lifestyle changes. Here are some examples of lifestyle changes.

  • Try to eat using the plate method. You do not have to stop eating your favorite traditional foods but simply adjust the amounts you eat. A basic overview of the plating method suggested for a 9 inch plate or serving size is to eat ½ vegetables, ¼ starch, and ¼ protein for a meal.. For example, ½ of the plate is a salad, ¼ is rice, and ¼ is ropa vieja.
  • When possible, choose healthier food options like brown rice instead of white rice.
  • Start exercising. You can take a dance class, do an exercise for 10 or 15 minutes a day, or just walk for 30 minutes a day. There are many good exercise routines found on YouTube. Also, there are quiet exercises for people living in apartments or who don’t want to bother the other occupants living with them.

Another common misconception among Hispanics is the idea of a miracle cure for diabetes. While there are some foods that can help prevent or control diabetes, there is not a miracle cure for diabetes. A person with diabetes needs to take medicine and/or make lifestyle changes to prevent and manage their diabetes.


Around half of the Hispanic population have low English proficiency. This makes it hard for them to go to a doctor who does not speak Spanish, which is another barrier to diabetes care. When English is not a person’s first language, it can be difficult to understand the medical lingo doctors might use. Tips for going around this barrier are to try and find a doctor who speaks Spanish or take a family member who speaks English with you to the doctors.


Hispanic culture is very family-oriented but family can be both an advantage, because of family support, and a disadvantage concerning diabetes. Often families show their love for each other through food and cooking. You can still cook for your family and show your love by making healthier versions of your favorite traditional meals. One way to do this is if a recipe calls for ground meat use lean ground turkey or ground sirloin beef. Some other ideas of healthy food recipes can be found on Yumlish’s recipe page. Feeding your family healthier meals will help make your family healthier.

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