Health Disparities among Latina/o Adolescents in Urban and Rural Schools: Educators' Perspectives

By Villalba, José A. | Journal of Cultural Diversity, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

Health Disparities among Latina/o Adolescents in Urban and Rural Schools: Educators' Perspectives


Villalba, José A., Journal of Cultural Diversity


Abstract: This qualitative pilot study examined health disparities among rural and urban Latina/o adolescents from the perspective of middle and high school administrators, counselors, nurses, and teachers. Participants were asked to describe Latina/o health disparities in their schools, reasons attributed to health disparities, and school-based interventions for addressing health disparities. Focus group participants reported that common health disparities for Latina/o youth in rural and urban settings include poor vision care and high teenage pregnancy rates. However, participants reported differences in physical health and mental health disparities, as well as differences in social-cultural-economic contributors to disparities and school-based interventions.

Key Words: Health Disparities, Latina/o Adolescents in Urban and Rural Schools, Educators' Perspectives

Health disparities between people of color and white peers have been well documented (Dogra, 2004; Dyer, 2003; Villarruel, 2001) in dental health (Amschler, 2003) and mental health (Yeh, McCabe, Hurlburt, Hough, Hazen, Culver, Garland, & Landsverk, 2002), in minority health risk behaviors (Browne, Clubb, Aubrecht, & Jackson, 2001), possession and use of health insurance (Shone, Dick, Brach, Kimminau, LaClair, Shenkman, Col, Schaffer, Mulvihill, Szilagyi, Klein, VanLandeghem, & Bronstein, 2003), the effects of health disparities on adolescents of color (Guthrie & Low, 2006), and the relevance of residence in rural or urban settings (Eberhardt & Pamuk, 2004; Galambos, 2005; Hartley, 2004).

The growing US Latino population has brought increasing interest to Latina/o health disparities (Borders, Brannon-Goedeke, Arif, & Xu, 2004; Chowdhury, Balluz, Okoro, & Strine, 2006; Fornos, Mika, Bayles, Serrano, Jimenez, & Villarreal, 2005; Nies, Vander, Schim-Myers, Artinian, & Serrick-Escamilla, 2005; Zsembik & Fennell, 2005). Although US Latinas/os traditionally have lived in and around urban centers with large Latino populations, the most dramatic Latino population surges in recent years have occurred in rural communities without the social, educational, and public health infrastructure commonplace in urban settings (Pew Hispanic Center, 2005a). In addition, the median age for US Latinas/os is 11 years younger than for whites, and roughly 20% of the US Latino population are between the ages of 10-19, compared to 14% of the white population (Pew Hispanic Center, 2005b). The growth in school-aged Latina/o children has presented unique health and academic challenges for schools in general, and rural schools in particular (Frenn, Malin, Bansal, Delgado, Havice, Ho, & Schweizer, 2003; Slade, 2003; Wortham & Contreras, 2002).

This pilot study examined the differences in health disparities of Latina/o adolescents from the perspectives of educators in rural and urban settings. Middle and high school administrators, counselors, nurses, and teachers met in school-based focus groups, and their responses were analyzed using qualitative methodology.

METHOD

Schools and Participants

Four schools (one rural and one urban middle school, and one rural and one urban high school) were represented in the study. The rural schools were in one county in North Carolina and the urban schools in a county in Florida. According to the US Bureau of the Census (n.d.), Latinas/os accounted for 6.5% of the population in the community in which rural schools were located and Latina/o students comprised 10.9% of the total student population. The urban community was 60.6% Latina/o and Latina/o students made up 49.8% of the total student population in the school district (National Center for Education Statistics, n.d.).

A total of 15 school-based educators agreed to participate in the study. Participants held the following positions: school administrator, school counselor, school nurse, and general education teacher. …

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