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Sexual health care lacking for Latinas

February 18th, 2006

Dr Petra

The Allan Guttmacher Institute and Latino Issues Forum have released a report claiming Latinas are not being researched or informed about sexual health issues, according to The Daily Colonial.

Analysis of published sexual and reproductive health papers indicated only 18% included Latina women, compared to 35% inclusion of black women and 41% white women. Reasons for exclusion include a lack of funding for research, translation and language barriers, difficulties accessing healthcare, and certain sexual health topics being taboo within Latina communities.

Globally research has a poor record with what are often called ‘hard-to-reach’ groups. Those who don’t speak the main language that studies are completed in, who find healthcare settings difficult to access, and those who represent minority ethnic or economic groups are less likely to be approached for or featured in research. Sexual and reproductive health research is no exception.

A lack of investment in translation services, mistrust of researchers, and researchers tending to privilege those who are similar to them also exclude many participants. Accessing different groups of participants can increase the time and costs of a study, and sadly many researchers in the past and currently see this as added ‘nuisance’ as justification to exclude the ‘hard-to-reach’.

In all likelihood the hard-to-reach aren’t that hard to reach at all, most communities are easy to identify. The problem is they may be hard-to-involve – and that’s more often due to projects not investing in such groups or seeing their value as participants.

Within commercial research funded by pharmaceutical companies there’s little willingness to study any group that won’t have access to healthcare since they won’t represent a market for future drug consumption. And imperialist attitudes that underpin many research methods can also lead to those in minority social or ethnic communities being deliberately excluded. There’s sadly a view from some researchers that participants who can’t speak the language research is conducted in have nothing to say, or that the effort required to include them is just ‘political correctness’ and therefore too difficult or pointless to achieve.

The exclusion of Latina women in sexual health research is vital to make public. However we need to be aware that in all communities where sex research takes place there are many more groups of people consistently being excluded.

This skews sex research in favour of a particular group of participants who are unrepresentative of wider populations. Where communities are excluded from research, they will also be denied sexual and reproductive health services – since research doesn’t mention them and healthcare continues to fail to cater for their needs.

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