Reducing Communication Barriers

Latino children are one of the most overweight groups in the U.S. A recent study has attempted to explain the reasons for this phenomenon. Some researchers believe that Latino children and their families are not getting proper weight loss information from their pediatricians. A recent study has shown that when a language barrier exists, young Latino patients and their parents are not being told that the child is overweight, are not given culture-specific diet advice, and are not started on weight management plans.

Weight-Related Medical Advice for Latino Children

Dr. Christy Turer from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center recently completed a study using a convenience sample from two primary care clinics. This study aimed to examine how pediatricians communicate with the families of overweight Latino children. In 81% of encounters, pediatricians directly communicated to the child and his or her family that the child was considered overweight. In 62% of the encounters, growth charts were used to communicate the weight status of the child. A trained medical interpreter was only used 25% of the time, and pediatricians only addressed culturally specific foods and dietary options in about 42% of encounters.

In addition to failing to properly communicate the child’s overweight status, Dr. Turer found that pediatricians also failed to provide weight loss solutions to Latino families in many instances. Only about 30% of cases saw the pediatrician discussing behavioral changes that could target the family lifestyle or diet. Likewise, only about 50% of encounters involved the pediatrician discussing weight loss goals with families or referring the child to a nutritionist.

Addressing the Communication Barriers

In order for Latino children and their families to better understand the gravity of the child’s overweight status, pediatricians need to tell parents that their child is overweight using culturally-sensitive terms. An interpreter is essential in facilitating this conversation and can show family growth charts to hammer the point home. It is also essential for weight management plans to be offered that provide dietary plans that are culturally relevant while requesting follow-up visits.

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