240756 Community Matters: Religious Involvement and Latino Immigrant Health

Monday, October 31, 2011: 9:15 AM

Ephraim Shapiro, PHD, MPA, MBA , School of Medicine, New York University, New York, NY
Introduction: A growing body of evidence suggests that religiosity is associated with better health. Religious communities play an important role in integrating immigrants into in society and religious and ethnic identities are often intertwined. There is a paucity of theory-driven quantitative research, however, on the relationship between religious involvement with the health of immigrants, including for Latinos, the largest immigrant group. To help address this gap, this study analyzes the intersection of three areas: religious involvement, Latino immigrants to the U.S, and health outcomes.

Aims: This study sought to examine (1) the relationship between religious involvement, measured by church attendance, and health status for immigrants; (2) the relationship between church attendance and health behaviors; (3) whether ethnicity moderates these relationships.

Methods: A secondary data analysis was performed using the New Immigrant Survey (NIS), a randomized survey of all newly legalized U.S. immigrants in 2003. The study focused on Christian immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador. A multivariate analysis was performed using religion, immigrant, socioeconomic and other demographic variables. Outcome measures included self-reported health status, smoking, drinking, physical activity and obesity. Moderator analyses were performed using ethnicity.

Results: Over 1200 adult Christian immigrants from these countries participated in the NIS. Associations were found between religious involvement and better health status and less smoking, less binge drinking, and greater physical activity. Country of birth moderated the relationships between religious involvement and health status. Differences were found with results for NIS analyses performed for non-Latino immigrant groups.

Conclusion: Opportunities exist to leverage widespread church-going by Latino immigrants by creating innovative and effective interventions to reduce the burden of chronic disease. Efforts to target the needs of immigrant populations in faith communities are important to potentially counteract worsening Latino immigrant health that often occurs with longer U.S. residency.

Learning Areas:
Chronic disease management and prevention
Diversity and culture
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1) Understand the relationship between church-going and the health status and health behaviors of Latino immigrants. 2) Identify variations among key Latino immigrant groups in the relationship between religion and health. 3) Discuss the implications of these findings for developing innovative interventions to prevent and manage chronic disease among Latino immigrants.

Keywords: Immigrants, Religion

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because I have extensive training in and experience with research related to immigrant health as well as social factors relating to it
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.