City’s Latino communities still facing higher-than-average numbers on obesity, smoking, report says

A new study examines health challenges specific to Latino communities in New York City.
A new study examines health challenges specific to Latino communities in New York City. Photo Credit: Theodore Parisienne

New York’s Latino population has higher-than-average numbers when it comes to obesity, smoking, alcoholism and other unhealthy habits, according to a new study released by the health department.

The extensive research was completed after a year of studying the health habits of the city’s nearly 2.5 million Latinos. Researchers also found that Latinos have a lower premature mortality rate than non-Latino New Yorkers — 150 vs. 170 per 100,000.

Deputy Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said the general numbers have been reported before, but this report is one of the first to break down the city’s population specific to Latino background. Health organizations now have a better blueprint to address their needs.

“We’ll be looking at ways we can learn from their [specific] behaviors,” Barbot said.

Several health nonprofits said they will be using the report, which compiled data from the city’s Health Department, U.S. Census and other government agencies, to construct programs tailored to the communities where the identified Latino groups live.

“I look forward to looking at this report and giving it legs,” said Miriam Martinez, chief program officer of the Children’s Aid Society.


Nearly one-third of Latino adults are obese compared with 21 percent of the non-Latino population.

Health Department officials said a possible factor could be the lack of healthy food options available in impoverished areas where they live.

Health risks also greatly differ among groups and gender, according to the report. Although men who have origins from Central and South America have the lowest obesity rates in the Latino community at about 21 percent, female members with the same background have a higher rate of 30 percent.


About 12 percent of Latino adults smoke, which is about two percentage points lower than the citywide average, the report said. However, the number was higher for the city’s Puerto Rican population, of which 25 percent of adults smoke.

Binge drinking

The report found 18 percent of Latino adults binge drink, one percentage point higher than the city average. The city’s Mexican population had the highest rates, as 36 percent of adults with Mexican backgrounds binge drink.

New Yorkers with Dominican and Central and South American backgrounds, had the lowest averages in this health section with 16 percent.

Health insurance

About 22 percent of Latino adults don’t have health insurance, compared with the city average of 13 percent — and one group stood out.

New Yorkers of Mexican background were the largest segment in need of insurance at 54 percent. Only 7 percent of city Puerto Ricans, by comparison, didn’t have coverage.