July 17, 2019

The Latino Center for Health received $150,000 from the Washington state legislature to conduct a study identifying the number of Latinx physicians statewide along with their practice areas and geographic locations. The funding will also help the Center develop and disseminate policy recommendations to meet the state’s growing need for Latinx physicians. The Latino Center for Health is an interdisciplinary center with faculty members from the UW schools of social work, public health and medicine.

Latinx are the largest and among the fastest-growing racial/ethnic group in Washington. Between 1980 and 2018, the Latinx population grew from 1.9 percent to 13.1 percent; in 2018, there were nearly 1 million Latinx living in Washington.

A number of social- and health-related inequities affect Washington state Latinx, includinglack of access to linguistically and culturally appropriate health services and a scarcity of bilingual/bicultural service providers. Other concerns include lack of affordable housing, food insecurity, lack of access to mental health providers and a hostile political environment facing immigrants.

“There is an urgent need to address the shortage of Latinx physicians and other physicians of color, not only in Washington state but in the nation,” says Dr. Leo Morales, principal investigator of the study, chief diversity officer at the UW School of Medicine, and co-director of the Latino Center for Health. “If current trends continue, the gap between the size of communities of color and the number of physicians of color serving them is only going to increase. This study will create a profile of Latinx physicians in the state and develop policy prescriptions to address this growing shortage.” 

The study’s results and policy recommendations will be disseminated through a final report presented in September 2020 at a one-day Latinx Health Symposiumheld at the University of Washington. The symposium will include guest speakers, policy makers, university leadership, community leaders and advocates, and representatives from the UW’s six health sciences schools—dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, public health, and social work—participating in breakout sessions to identify strategic policy and educational efforts to create positive change.

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