Diversity Matters: Hispanic Heritage Month
Latino Americans are the largest ethnic group in the U.S., totaling more than 55 million people — including thousands in the Michigan Medicine community.
Over the next few weeks, many in the area will be celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, a time during which the independence days of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Belize, Chile and Costa Rica are observed. The month was created to honor the history and cultures of individuals with roots in these and other South and Central American countries.
To help you provide better care and services for patients, families and coworkers, here are some important things to keep in mind about Hispanic culture.
A warm welcome
Many in the Hispanic community exchange hugs and kisses on the cheek as a greeting.
“There is a very personal element to Hispanic culture that we should try and bring to the patients and families who are used to that,” said Anicia Mirchandani, president of the Latino American and Native American Medical Association (LANAMA), a group made up of U-M medical students.
Anicia spent a year teaching in Mexico as a Fulbright scholar, becoming fully immersed in that country’s culture. She has also volunteered her time in the Dominican Republic and with migrant farm workers from Mexico who came to the state of Michigan for work.
“By reciprocating a warm greeting, you will avoid being seen as cold or as if you don’t care about their wellbeing,” Anicia said. “That’s especially important in a health care setting or when building a rapport with your coworkers.”
‘An emphasis on family and faith’
Often, it’s seen as the duty of children to take care of their parents as older generations age. That can make providing ideal geriatric care more complicated.
“There tends to be a lot of hesitation for children to allow their parents to be put into retirement homes or hospice care facilities,” Anicia said. “It’s better to be aware of that going into a difficult situation and present all types of options, including end-of-life care that can take place at home.”
In addition to family, Hispanic individuals also tend to place a strong emphasis on faith. In fact, 80 percent of Latino Americans identify as religious, with 77 percent identifying as Christian — and, more specifically, 48 percent as Catholic.
“One of the most common responses when asked ‘How are you?’ is to say ‘Bien, gracias a dios,’ which means ‘I’m well, thanks to God,’” Anicia said. “Almost every aspect of Hispanic life is tied in with faith.”
That includes a person’s diet, as individuals may limit what they eat during Lent and other religious observations. If a patient inquires about dietary restrictions, consult with his or her registered dietitian nutritionist or a member of Spiritual Care to see what services can be offered at Michigan Medicine.
“Such an emphasis on family and faith ends up impacting health care decisions in a multitude of ways,” Anicia said. “As always, it’s vitally important to give patients and their loved ones as much information as possible to allow them to make the best decision they can.”
For more information on LANAMA, or If you’re interested in joining the group, click here.