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Missing in Action: L.A. County Latino Physicians

Study Finds Lack Of ‘Culturally Competent’ Doctors

(CBS) LOS ANGELES A UCLA study released Wednesday found Los Angels County to have "an acute shortage of culturally competent doctors to treat the area's Latino community."

The report, which is a follow-up to the "2003 Latino Scorecard, examines how Latinos in Los Angeles are faring in five key areas: health, education, economic development, housing and public safety.

The shortage of culturally aware physicians adds to other Latino healthcare issues, such as being the highest percentage of adults without health insurance, according to the UCLA Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture.

Latinos made some strides becoming more physically active, decreasing tobacco use, and continuing to have lower rates of heart disease, cancer and stroke, according to the study.

But the "long term threat to this healthy Latino profile is an ominous increase in overweight and obese youth and adults," researchers found.

The findings come as part of a five-part report -- "2006 Latino Scorecard: Road to Action" -- sponsored by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles.

The data for the 2006 report spawned from figures compiled from 2002-2003.

The report found enrollment of Latinos in medical schools in L.A. County to be "disturbingly low, with only 42 Latinos enrolled out of 306 seats in 2003, only 13.7 percent."

"This is not an affirmative-action issue," said David Hayes-Bautista, director of the UCLA Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture. "The simple fact is that Latino physicians are over 30 times more likely to speak Spanish and practice in a heavily Latino area."

The county's Latino population continues to grow and now stands at 46, up from 44.6 percent in 2003.

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