More Latino doctors needed for growing Latino population, study says

File: A mother watching a doctor giving her daughter an injection.
File: A mother watching a doctor giving her daughter an injection.
Ariel Skelley/Getty Images/Blend Images RM

The number of Latino doctors is declining as the Latino population continues to grow in the United States, according to a study done by UCLA.

The study focused on census data from states with the highest number of Latinos, including California, from 1980 to 2010.  The results showed an overall decrease in Latino doctors, with a few differences in some states. 

While the Latino population has increased by 243 percent nationally, the number of Latino physicians has decreased per 100,000 by 22 percent, according to UCLA

As the number of Latino doctors relative to population shrunk, the number of non-Hispanic white doctors has been increasing, according to UCLA. 

In 1980, there were 135 Latino physicians for every 100,000 Latinos in the U.S.; by 2010, that figure had dropped to just 105 per 100,000. Meanwhile, the national rate of non-Hispanic white physicians increased from 211 for every 100,000 non-Hispanic whites to 315 per 100,000.

This could pose an issue for some members of the Latino community. As KPCC has reported, non-Hispanic white doctors aren't always confident they can provide the best care to Latino patients, especially to those that do not speak or understand English due to language barriers, among other challenges. 

The study said that "at the national and state levels, Latino physicians were far more likely to speak Spanish than [non-Hispanic white] physicians."

In California, the rate of Latino doctors is not necessarily declining, but it is not reflecting the growth in the Latino population. The number of Latino doctors per 100,000 in the Latino population was 50, while amount non-Hispanic whites, there were 390 doctors per 100,000 in 2010. 

The research noted the importance of Spanish-speaking physicians due to the provisions of health care services in Spanish.  

"Latino physicians tend to be that bridge, this critical piece of health care communication," Dr. Gloria Sanchez, one of the leading researchers of the study, told the Los Angeles Times