Living in the United States: Is It Good for Our Health?

It’s called the Latino Paradox - immigrants arriving in the United States tend to be healthier than the average American, but as they remain in the country, their health declines. In the documentary Unnatural Causes, the narrator introduces this clip, Arriving Healthy:

“Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses…,” the poem goes. Today, many new immigrants to the U.S. are still poor, and tired. But they’re certainly not sick. In fact, they may be healthier than the rest of us.

According to the film, immigrant Latinos on arrival have the best health in the country with the lowest death rates, incidence of heart disease, psychiatric illness, and other serious conditions. Despite lower income, lower education and social marginalization, their health is actually better than the wealthiest segments of America. Living in the US is not good for their health. Why is this?

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The experts in the series explain that cultural traditions, family and social networks protect these immigrant communities from the strains and stresses of life in the US, but maintaining these networks over time is difficult and within about 5 years the situation has changed.

Invite students to visit KQED Educations’ ESL Speak blog and comment on students’ posts on this issue.

Also check out KQED's ESL/Post-Secondary Educator Resources for Health Education.