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Proyecto de Salud Para Latinos: Understanding the Sexual and Reproductive Health of Young Latino Men and Women

A research project in Public Health

Picture of Marie Harvey

New settlement areas in rural parts of the northwestern and southeastern states in the US are experiencing rapid and unprecedented growth in the number of new Latino immigrants. These individuals face unique challenges that may influence their sexual behaviors and health service utilization placing them at higher risk of exposure to STIs including HIV/AIDS and unintended pregnancy. The overall goal of the Latino Health Project is to increase understanding of unintended pregnancy among female and male Latinos (ages 18-25)  residing in rural Oregon by examining factors which influence contraceptive use, sexual risk behavior, and HIV/STI prevention.

Professor Marie Harvey, chair of the college’s Department of Public Health and Antonio Torres, Field Coordinator for the CDC-funded Latino Health Project at OSU recently presented their research at a national conference of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.  The project is composed of two studies: Study 1 consisted of key informant interviews, 58 qualitative interviews with Latino men and women, and nine focus groups with 66 health care providers; and Study 2 consisted of structured interviews with 246 Latino men and 256 Latino women.  Marie and Antonio presented preliminary findings in three areas:

Power and sexual decision-making: When asked “in your relationship with your partner, who would you say has more power,” the majority of men reported “both of us, but more me” (46.4%) and “me” (17.9%). Conversely, the majority of the women (60.7%) reported both of us, but more my partner” with 10.7% stating that their partner had more power.  Men and women both described “being equal” as an important outcome of relationship power.  Women valued communication and closeness as important processes of relationship and both men and women expressed a high degree of shared decision making.

Perceptions of discrimination: Over two-thirds of participants (67.3%) reported at least one discriminatory experience when seeking health care and over 60% of the women reported at least one discriminatory experience when getting family planning services. These preliminary findings suggest that discrimination could contribute to racial/ethnic disparities in access to and quality of health care received.

Prevention of unintended pregnancy and HIV/STIs: Perspectives of health care providers: Many providers saw benefits to involving male partners in the provision of family planning services. Although much of the discussion around male partners focused on the barriers they represented, many providers did acknowledge that welcoming and encouraging men to play a more active role might foster a positive attitude toward family planning within a couple or family.  Many providers noted that Latino cultural norms around pregnancy and sexuality are sometimes in conflict with the prevailing norms. For example, U.S family planning programs tend to discourage early childbearing, promote smaller family size, and encourage couples to postpone childbearing until economic security has been attained.  In Latino culture, however, the highest value is placed on family and motherhood, even at a young age. Providers, in order to effectively serve their clients, must recognize, respect, and incorporate cultural values and norms in practice

“I am pleased with many of our accomplishment in the implementation of this project,” says Antonio.  “I am especially proud that our interviewing team conducted over 500 interviews with Latino women and Latino men.  They did amazing work in communities recruiting all the participants for the study and were successful in building great relationships with partner organizations, such as Radio Movimeinto 95.9 FM, Woodburn Library, Salud Medical Center, and Tuality Salud.   Next steps include submitting manuscripts for publication, convening community partners, identifying and development interventions tailored to for Latino communities.