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Harvard Researchers at Cambridge Health Alliance Find U.S. Latinos are Underutilizing Mental Health Services
Posted Date: 1/11/2007

Objectives: The authors examined correlates and rates of past-year mental health service use in a national sample of Latinos residing in the United States.

Methods: The authors used data from the National Latino and Asian American Study (www.multiculturalmentalhealth.org/nlaas.asp), 
a national epidemiological household survey of Latinos.

Results: Cultural factors such as nativity, language, age at migration, years of residence in the United States, and generational status were associated with whether or not Latinos had used mental health services. However, when the analysis was stratified according to past-year psychiatric diagnoses, these associations held only among those who did not fulfill criteria for any of the psychiatric disorders assessed. Rates of mental health service use among those who did not fulfill diagnostic criteria were higher among Puerto Ricans and US-born Latinos than among non-Puerto Ricans and foreign-born Latinos.

Conclusions: Rates of mental health service use among Latinos appear to have increased substantially over the past decade relative to rates reported in the 1990s. Cultural and immigration characteristics should be considered in matching mental health services to Latinos who need preventive services or who are symptomatic but do not fulfill psychiatric disorder criteria.

Authors: Margarita Alegra, PhD, Director of the Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research at Cambridge Health Alliance and Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School; Norah Mulvaney-Day, PhD, Associate Director of the Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research at Cambridge Health Alliance and Instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School; Meghan Woo, ScM, Research Assistant at the Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research at Cambridge Health Alliance and a doctoral student at the Harvard School of Public Health; Maria Torres, MA, Project Manager for the National Latino and Asian American Study; Shan Gao, MS, Data Analyst at the Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research at Cambridge Health Alliance; and Vanessa Oddo, BA, Research Assistant at the Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research at Cambridge Health Alliance.

Journal: American Journal of Public Health (2007) Vol 97 No. 1: 76-83 Website: www.ajph.org.

Funding: The project was supported by a National Institute of Health Research Grant funded by the National Institute of Mental Health as well as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Center for Mental Health Services and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research. This publication was also made possible by a grant from the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

The Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research, led by Dr. Margarita Alegra, is based at Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) and collaborates with outside institutions such as the Harvard Medical School and the Recinto de Ciencias Médicas at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR). The mission is to generate innovative mental health services research that impacts policy, practice, and service delivery for multicultural populations. The Center is comprised of an interdisciplinary group of psychologists, social policy analysts, health economists, psychiatrists, data analysts, sociologists, and other professionals that assist in the research and analysis of Center projects. There are currently three large projects operating at the Center: the National Latino and Asian American Study (NLAAS); the joint CHA/UPR project Excellence in Partnerships for Community Outreach, Research on Health Disparities and Training (EXPORT); and the Advanced Center for Mental Health Disparities. Website:www.multiculturalmentalhealth.org.

Cambridge Health Alliance is a regional healthcare system with three hospitals and more than twenty primary care practices in Cambridge, Somerville, and Boston's metro-North communities. As a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, Cambridge Health Alliance offers medical residency/training programs and undergraduate learning experiences in hospital and community settings. Cambridge Health Alliance also includes the Cambridge Public Health Department, CHA Physicians Organization (CHAPO), and Network Health, a managed Medicaid plan. 

 


Cambridge Health Alliance is a vital and innovative community health system that provides essential services to Cambridge, Somerville, and Boston’s metro-north communities. It includes three hospital campuses, a network of primary care and specialty practices, and the Cambridge Public Health Department. CHA is a Harvard Medical School teaching affiliate and is also affiliated with Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and Tufts University School of Medicine.