Health Status Perceptions and Literacy among Low-Income Mexican-Americans in Texas-Mexico Border Colonias

Sunday, 26 July 2015: 8:30 AM

Eloisa G. Tamez, PhD, MSN, BSN, RN
College of Nursing, University of Texas Brownsville, Brownsville, TX


The purpose of the study was to determine one or more characteristics of low income Mexican American residents in the South Texas-Mexico border region.  Therefore, low income Mexican Americans (N=175) residing in South Texas-Mexico Border colonias were sought to participate in a study to determine the following broad predisposing factors:  health history, health beliefs, health literacy, perceived health status and nutrition knowledge. The health history of the participants included the following components:  anthropometric measurements (perceived and actual), a determination of their body mass index (BMI), skin fold measurements, an index of the activity level, and an assessment for acanthosis nigricans (AN).

Methods: A cross-sectional descriptive study with convenience sampling was conducted in four South Texas-Mexico Border colonias.  Descriptive statistics, the Wilcoxin Two Sample Test and the Chi Square/Kruskal Wallis Test were used.


 A significant difference between males and females was the skin fold measurements (p < 0.0001) with females having greater measurements.  Diabetics were older than nondiabetics and people with diabetes reported a greater degree of worry.  Those born in the United States with English as the primary language had more years of education and were employed.  Those with higher education had lower Chance Health Locus of Control (CHLC) and Powerful Others Health Locus of Control (PHLC) scores and higher nutrition knowledge scores.  The participants generally perceived themselves as healthy; however, their physical measures (weight, nutrition knowledge, reported physical activity, and health literacy) were not congruent with these beliefs.


While the overview of low-income Mexican Americans residing in the Texas-Mexico border disclosed interesting factors, there is a void in specificity related to these factors that may prove to be beneficial in defining the need and type of interventions. There are unanswered questions that require a comprehensive methodology and measurement.  In particular, health care literacy requires much more than merely a measurement of how well the people can navigate a healthcare system.  Whereas there was a concern that adherence to the primary language of Spanish might influence access to health care by this population, we discovered that there was adequate understanding of how to navigate through a health care system.  In that the majority of the population is Spanish speaking, the impact of health literacy on knowledge and comprehension is a critical measurement to add to the data profile.  Perhaps, this information, and other critical factors, will lead to a better understanding for the development and implementation of relevant health-care interventions moving health care initiatives closer to reducing or eliminating treatment delivery disparities to vulnerable populations.