Every day, I see brands try and many times, fail to reach hispanic women with their advertising. And it never surprises me.
Although there’s some understanding of the role women play in making healthcare decisions, there’s a huge disconnect between how healthcare marketers portray hispanic women and who we actually are.
The overgeneralization, borderline tokenization, all stems from a colossal lack of cultural competence in the marketing space.
Marketers walk on eggshells using their superficial understanding of this culture rather than working to understand the hispanic woman’s lived experience.
Ultimately, our outlook on health and wellness comes down to acculturation, income level, and education.
Challenges Hispanic Women Face in Healthcare (Click below to read more)
1. Limited Cultural Competence
When aiming for cultural competence, healthcare marketers struggle to pinpoint today’s hispanic woman’s role in making wise health decisions for her family. (But that’s why I’m here: to give you the inside scoop).
Family is huge in hispanic culture. No matter the generation, hispanic mothers, sisters, or daughters put their family’s well being above their own.
You might think: isn’t that true for anyone? What makes the focus on family as hispanic women any different? A 2016 study on the relationship between family and mental health in Hispanic culture explains it best:
“Familismo or familism is a cultural value seen in Hispanic cultures, in which a higher emphasis is placed on the family unit.”
This concept of “familism” runs deep—and it’s amplified in immigrant women who may be far from their extended family, causing them to be extra protective of the family they do have close.
Considering the impact of familism, what is the hispanic woman’s role in making wise health decisions for her family?
It changes from woman to woman, and it all comes down to acculturation.
To practice cultural competence in marketing, you have to be in tune with the effects of acculturation.
The abuela who immigrated to the U.S. at 35 is going to have a very different level of acculturation from the woman who’s been in the US since the age of 8. As someone becomes more acculturated in this country, they become more open to wellness as a concept.
Older generations, recent immigrants, and low income hispanic women, generally preferring Spanish, tend to consider healthcare only when somebody is sick. The younger, more acculturated generation of hispanic women are more open to overall wellness and prevention.
“Biculturalism can enhance experiences that allow a patient to feel more confident and prepared to work within the United States healthcare system while drawing on assets from their culture of origin (values, norms, and social support systems) that promote positive health behaviors and health-decision making.”ASU Study About the Importance of Acculturation in Latina Women’s Health
Early in my career, I constantly encountered hispanic families who opted to leave their family members in the dark—asking doctors to not reveal the full diagnosis. As more acculturated hispanics emerge and the hispanic population grows, I see this far less today.
But remember: growing up in the US or being more acculturated doesn’t mean your audience is any less hispanic.
Instead, today’s hispanic woman has created a new healthcare identity. She considers the different aspects of her world; adopting what works for her body, and avoiding what doesn’t.
Immersion and Language
The amount of time a hispanic has lived in the US doesn’t always equate to being more acculturated.The level of immersion with other hispanics in their community also plays a huge role.
A T3E employee once told me her aunt had lived in the US for 20 years already—and still didn’t speak english. It just wasn’t necessary in her community.
About a third of Hispanic adults say they prefer to see a Spanish-speaking doctor or other health care provider, while 51% say it doesn’t make a difference to them and 13% would rather not see a Spanish-speaking provider.Source: pewresearch.org
Ultimately, offering resources and providers in Spanish matters. But it’s not the end-all be-all, especially if your main hispanic audience lies within that 51%.
Where does your audience live? How acculturated are they?
The easiest way to learn about the hispanic women in your audience is simple. Just ask them. You may learn something.
Among Hispanic women, 30% say their women’s health concerns or symptoms were not taken seriously, either recently or in past interactions with doctors or other health care providers—for instance.Source: Pew Research 2022
This shows us that communication is lacking—and it’s about far more than just language.
So what can you do?
Whether in marketing or healthcare, make sure your talent reflects your target.
Hire creatives or healthcare professionals who have lived the hispanic experience of your audience.
Data is important, but to influence behavior, you need more than data. You need a level of understanding and intuition that can only come from life experience.
Education is key to healthcare marketing. If your audience doesn’t feel informed and empowered to make their own health decisions, then you’ve failed.
Hispanic women “face multiple challenges that put them at risk for developing heart disease.” Some are related to acculturation and income, but:
Education is a significant barrier. Only 1 in 3 Hispanic women are aware of the threat heart disease poses to women in the United States. This compared to 1 in 2 for all women in the US, according to AHA.Source: scripps.org
Since it’s standard practice for hispanics to go to the doctor only if and when they’re sick, preventive healthcare is uncommon. Education can counter this.
With compassion and empathy, we can demonstrate how prevention can help both her and her family in the long run.
Clearly, healthcare education is something that hispanic women need. And as healthcare marketers, we’re perfectly positioned to provide it.
How do we humanize clinical conversations so that they’re not so intimidating?
Let’s explore a breast cancer diagnosis. With a hispanic patient, breast cancer is not only a diagnosis for her, it’s a diagnosis for the whole family.
Culturally competent care providers consider this. They help her inform and prepare her family for what’s to come. A culturally incompetent provider, on the other hand, might not ask about her family at all.
As marketers, we can’t be one-on-one with the consumer in the same way the doctor is, but we still need cultural competence to educate effectively.
For instance, “[hispanic women] are less likely to receive regular mammograms and pap tests.” (Clin Med Insights)
I could have told you this far before looking it up, and I promise you: most hispanic women on your team would know this intrinsically.
The strategists would know to do more research on this. They’d learn that hispanic women have the highest incidence of cervical cancer in the US (Clin Med Insights). And your hispanic creatives would be more likely to educate women about this in a culturally competent way—always considering the priorities of hispanic women.
Among Hispanic women, 30% say their women’s health concerns or symptoms were not taken seriously, either recently or in past interactions with doctors or other health care providers.
It’s often as simple as asking your patient or consumer what they need. As both healthcare marketers and providers, we need to not only answer questions, but also provide an environment where the patient feels safe enough to ask.
If your marketing talent and healthcare providers align with your target audience, then it’s far easier for cultural competence to come naturally.
If you want to connect with hispanic women, then speak through them.
Despite often belonging to lower income immigrant populations, hispanic women have a higher life expectancy (83.8 years) compared to white and black women (2.4 and 5.4 years lower, respectively). (What can I say? We’re resilient people.)
Researchers have seen this phenomenon across so many sources that it’s earned its own name!
The Latino health paradox (or Hispanic paradox) refers to the phenomenon that despite having lower incomes and less access to health-care services, Latinas in the U.S. have lower mortality rates and longer life expectancy than their non-Latina counterparts.9Clin Med Insights Womens Health
With each generation’s further acculturation, this likelihood to live longer goes away—so don’t get too excited if you’re reading this as a 2nd or 3rd generation hispanic woman (like me)!
But don’t let our tendency to stay alive fool you, hispanic women are still subject to healthcare disparities, often exacerbated by low income.
With less access to education overall, hispanic women are more vulnerable to poverty and poverty-related health conditions. This also makes access to health insurance a bigger hurdle, which is a problem of its own.
But you don’t have to take it from me, the data speaks for itself:
- Nearly 20 percent of Latinas are uninsured, compared to eight percent of white women
- Nearly one in four low-income Latinas is uninsured, compared to nearly one in six low-income white women.
Source: Clin Med Insights
With 62.1 million hispanics in the US and counting, we’re not going anywhere. And hispanic women are the ones making healthcare decisions—so it’s important that you can reach them.
Whether you’re a healthcare provider or marketer, you need cultural competence.
The first step is hiring female, Hispanic talent in marketing and advertising—because, if I haven’t drilled into your head by now:
If you want culturally competent messaging, your talent needs to reflect your target.