Strangers in a Strange Land: Health Care Experiences for Recent Latino Immigrants in Midwest Communities


Latino immigrants in recent years are moving to U.S. communities that have little experience with immigration from Latin America. Although public health initiatives have been created to expand health care services to uninsured adults and children, little is known about whether and to what extent new immigrants benefit from such resources.

Methods. We conducted 50 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with recent Latino immigrants residing in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area of southeast Michigan to explore (a) these immigrants’ perceptions of access to public health resources; (b) their assessments of their own health status, social and health needs, and patterns of use of health care services; (c) barriers to health care utilization; (d) strategies they have adopted to approach these barriers; and (e) how best to address the needs of growing immigrant communities.

Results. Latino immigrants often are not using and are unaware of local public health programs and other health resources. The principal barriers to care noted included lack of insurance, language barriers, and isolation in new communities. Many strategies, both effective and ineffective, have been adopted to overcome these barriers.

Conclusion. With the dynamic flux of new immigrants into many communities, outreach efforts must be continuously renewed and re-oriented to reach new arrivals.