Since 2003, Hispanics have become the largest minority group in the United States, representing an important part of the American population. According to the 2010 census, of the 300 million people living in the U.S., over 50 million were Hispanic.
Among the nation’s 3.4 million people who live with epilepsy, 400,000 are Hispanic.
The U.S Census Bureau predicts by the year 2040 the number of Hispanic Americans will increase to 87.5 million. This will be 22.3% of the whole nation’s total population.
A Need for More Understanding
Because of this growing population, there is a need for healthcare providers to know more about this community. The beliefs and attitudes the Hispanic population holds towards health, as well as cultural beliefs, all need to be understood. These factors interact in a complex way when dealing with certain health disorders such as epilepsy and seizures.
Despite the prevalence of epilepsy within the U.S., people still do not completely understand it. Many misperceptions remain. This all contributes to discrimination, difficulty with diagnosis, and even failure to follow a treatment plan for their seizures. This is especially true in the Hispanic population.
Epilepsy in the Hispanic Community
In 2006, the Epilepsy Foundation conducted a survey assessing the beliefs and attitudes of the Hispanic community toward epilepsy. The results showed the following:
- 25% of Hispanics associate seizures with death.
- More than half are afraid of revealing that a family member has epilepsy. This fear stems mainly from their strong beliefs and misunderstandings about the condition. For example, many Hispanic people believe people with epilepsy are dangerous to others.
- Over 30% believe people with epilepsy cannot hold a job.
- 9% believe people with epilepsy are not intelligent or have any spiritual faith; that epilepsy is contagious; and that epilepsy is related to one’s sins or an evil spirit.
- Regarding treatment, 30% believe in herbal remedies and 6% believe that a spiritual healer or exorcism is the best way to get healed.
Helping the Hispanic Community
Because of this overwhelming fear surrounding epilepsy and treatment beliefs, treating epilepsy within the Hispanic community has become challenging. Failure to follow a recommended treatment and delayed diagnosis all contribute to other health issues and loneliness.
Epilepsy is a disease, but not a life sentence. The Epilepsy Foundation’s Hispanic Outreach Program is designed to debunk all fear and myths associated with epilepsy. Through continuous awareness and education programs and activities, the Foundation works to ensures that Hispanic people affected by this condition will live a happier and healthier life.