Many foreign-born New Yorkers, particularly Spanish-speakers, face difficulties accessing health services, and their health may decline after living in the United States, according to a report supported by The Commonwealth Fund and the Fund for Public Health in New York. Findings from The Health of Immigrants in New York City, prepared by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, reveal that foreign-born immigrants are less likely than U.S.-born New Yorkers to have a regular primary care provider and to receive preventive services, such as blood pressure and cholesterol checks and colon and cervical cancer screenings.
Spanish speakers face particular challenges, reporting that they are twice as likely to report being unable to obtain medical care as English-speaking immigrants. For example, they are less likely to have a primary health care provider (52%), compared to English-speaking immigrants (74%). While foreign-born New Yorkers arrive in the city in better health than U.S.-born New Yorkers, with lower rates of smoking, obesity, and HIV, immigrants who have been living in the United States for four or more years report worse health and are more likely to be obese. According to New York City Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden, the greater availability of unhealthy food and decreased physical activity contribute to the new health problems.
The report authors recommend improving language services and educating immigrants about protections that prohibit city agencies and employees from asking about immigration status, except in unusual cases.
The Health of Immigrants in New York City, New York City Department of Health and Human Hygiene, August 2006