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Puerto Rico is aging more rapidly than almost any country, with 2020 estimates placing its population share of adults older than 65 as being the 10th highest in the world. Unlike most locales, Puerto Rico’s aging is driven by both (a) the culmination of long-running fertility and mortality trends and (b) high levels of outmigration of working-age adults, which contributes both directly (removal of young people) and indirectly (reduced births) to its pace of population aging. This article offers an overview of the main issues surrounding population aging in Puerto Rico. Policymakers and government leaders must plan for Puerto Rico’s unconventional population aging, which will exacerbate traditional concerns about the sustainability of government services and long-term economic prospects. Additional concerns emerge related to reduced social support networks and their impact on caregiving dynamics and implications for health. Puerto Rico’s unique history and political relationship with the United States present challenges and benefits for its aging population. Research on aging in Puerto Rico and public health policies must adapt to the needs of the country’s aging society.
An effective and widely used vaccine could reduce the burden of dengue virus (DENV) around the world. DENV is endemic in Puerto Rico, where the dengue vaccine CYD-TDV is currently under consideration as a control measure. CYD-TDV has demonstrated efficacy in clinical trials in vaccinees who had prior dengue virus infection. However, in vaccinees who had no prior dengue virus infection, the vaccine had a modestly elevated risk of hospitalization and severe disease. The WHO therefore recommended a strategy of pre-vaccination screening and vaccination of seropositive persons. To estimate the cost-effectiveness and benefits of this intervention (i.e., screening and vaccination of seropositive persons) in Puerto Rico, we simulated 10 years of the intervention in 9-year-olds using an agent-based model. Across the entire population, we found that 5.5% (4.6%-6.3%) of dengue hospitalizations could be averted. However, we also found that 0.057 (0.045–0.073) additional hospitalizations could occur for every 1,000 people in Puerto Rico due to DENV-naïve children who were vaccinated following a false-positive test results for prior exposure. The ratio of the averted hospitalizations among all vaccinees to additional hospitalizations among DENV-naïve vaccinees was estimated to be 19 (13–24). At a base case cost of vaccination of 382 USD, we found an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of 122,000 USD per QALY gained. Our estimates can provide information for considerations to introduce the CYD-TDV vaccine in Puerto Rico.
To evaluate the impact of Hurricanes Irma/Maria on diabetes incidence in Puerto Rico. Mortality increased substantially after the hurricanes, but morbidity was not assessed. We recruited 364 participants from the San Juan Overweight Adults Longitudinal Study (SOALS) aged 40–65 years who completed a three-year follow-up and were free of diabetes. We conducted additional questionnaires 1.7–2.5 years after hurricanes. Glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c), fasting glucose and insulin were assessed at all three visits. We compared diabetes incidence between pre-hurricane visits and between visits spanning the hurricanes using Generalized Estimating Equation (GEE) adjusting for within person repeated measures, age, and body mass index (BMI). Diabetes incidence was significantly higher spanning the hurricanes than pre-hurricane (multivariate GEE model: IRR = 2.1; 95% CI: 1.4–3.1). There was a significantly higher increase spanning the hurricanes compared to prehurricanes for Homeostatic Model Assessment of Insulin Resistance (HOMA-IR) (median: 0.3 uIU/mL vs. 0.2 uIU/mL). HbA1c levels increased by 0.4% spanning the hurricanes. Increases in diabetes incidence, HOMA-IR and HbA1c were higher spanning the hurricanes compared to the pre-hurricanes period. The increase in diabetes incidence remains significant after adjusting for age and BMI.
To examine how intergenerational support varies by parents’ living arrangements and whether there are gender differences in received support in Puerto Rico. Data come from the 2006–2007 Puerto Rican Elderly and Health Conditions Project, a representative longitudinal study of adults aged 60 and older in Puerto Rico (n = 2,288). We examined the association between parents’ living arrangements (alone, with spouse/partner only, with children) and their receipt of functional (help with errands/housework/transport) and health (help when sick) support from children, and whether parents’ gender moderates the association. Intergenerational coresidence was associated with higher odds of receiving functional and health support than living alone. Women were more likely than men to receive both forms of support. Parents’ gender significantly moderated the association between living arrangements and receiving health support—men living with their partners were less likely to receive health support from children than women in similar living arrangements. These associations persisted when analyses were restricted to those with disability. Our findings suggest that parents’ receipt of support from children is conditioned upon their living arrangement and gender, even when their functional health is jeopardized. We discuss these results in relation to the heterogeneous influence of living arrangements for older adults’ support needs and provide suggestions for policy and directions for future research in rapidly aging Puerto Rico.
The combined effects of declining fertility and increased longevity have accelerated population aging in different parts of the world. Unlike other countries, Puerto Rico is also experiencing unprecedented levels of working-age out-migration. The full impact of high out migration on Puerto Rican demography is not fully understood. Placing Puerto Rico’s aging process in an international context is useful in identifying the role out-migration is having on the accelerated aging of the Puerto Rican society. Using the World Population Prospects 2019 estimates, we compared the pattern of rapid aging found for Puerto Rico with the trajectories of six other countries with the highest population of 65+ in the World, Europe, and the Caribbean from 1960 to 2020. Prior to 2010, the aging process in Puerto Rico was comparable to the other countries. After 2010, the percent of the population over 65 years in Puerto Rico nearly doubled from 11% to 21%. The nearly doubling of the percent of older adults is not observed in any of the comparison countries. We find that the rapid aging of Puerto Rico, changing from a linear trend to an exponential one, is a result of accelerating levels of out-migration, which is concentrated in the working-age population.
Cardiometabolic diseases are among the leading causes of mortality worldwide and are increasingly prevalent in rapidly aging populations. Neighborhood socioeconomic position (SEP) and living arrangements are increasingly recognized as important determinants of cardiometabolic health but have not been examined within Puerto Rico. This study examined the association between neighborhood SEP, living arrangements, and incidence of cardiometabolic conditions among island-dwelling older Puerto Ricans, using longitudinal data from the Puerto Rican Elderly Health Conditions Project (Waves I 2002/03 and II 2006/07) linked with 2000 Census data for neighborhood-level conditions.
The purpose of the study is to contribute to the literature regarding post-acute nursing home utilization and quality indicators among Medicare beneficiaries in Puerto Rico compared with the United States (US) mainland. Medicare data from 2015–2017 was used to identify new discharges to skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) using the Minimum Data Set and the Medicare Provider Analysis and Review. Setting and Participants: Post-acute care patients admitted to SNFs in Puerto Rico and the US. Our final cohort included 4,732,222 beneficiaries from Puerto Rico and the US enrolled in Medicare fee-for-service or Medicare Advantage programs admitted to a SNF (N=15,197) following an acute hospital stay. We compared demographic, clinical and facility-level characteristics among patients in Puerto Rico and the US. We also described two quality indicators among these groups: a) 30-day rehospitalization rates; and b) successful discharge from the facility to the community. Medicare patients in Puerto Rico were physically and cognitively healthier than patients in the US. Puerto Ricans were also more likely to be admitted to lower quality nursing homes than US patients (2.5 vs. 3.4). Finally, Puerto Ricans had higher rates of successful discharge to the community (17.6, 95% CI 13.0 – 22.3), but higher 30-day rehospitalization rates compared to US patients (11.2, 95% CI, 6.2 – 16.3). These differences were consistent even when comparing these quality outcomes among Puerto Ricans to US Hispanics only.
This is a descriptive study using healthcare claims data from patients with T2DM from public and private healthcare insurance companies providing services in Puerto Rico in 2013, aimed to estimate the prevalence of comorbidities in this population. Descriptive analyzes were performed by sociodemographic, and type of service variables using frequency and percent for categorical data or means (+/-SD) or median (IQR) for continuous variables. Chi-square, Fisher exact or twosample t-tests were used for comparisons. A total of 3,100,636 claims were identified from 485,866 adult patients with T2DM. Patients older than 65 years represented 48% of the study population. Most patients were women (57%) and had private health insurance (77%). The regions of Metro Area (17%) and Caguas (16%) had the highest number of persons living with T2DM. The overall estimated prevalence of T2DM was 17.4%. The number of claims per patient ranged from 1 to 339. A mean of 6.3 claims (SD±9.99) and a median of 3 claims (Q1 1- Q3 8) per subject were identified. Of the 3,100,636 claims most (74%) were related to the diagnosis of diabetes (59%) and associated with outpatient services (88%). The most prevalent comorbidities were hypertension (48%), hyperlipidemia (41%), neuropathy (21%); renal disease (15%), and retinopathy (13%). A high prevalence and co-prevalence of comorbidities and use of healthcare services were identified in patients with T2DM, especially in older adults. Since most comorbidities were due to diabetes-related conditions, this analysis highlights the importance of early diagnosis and adequate management of T2DM patients to avoid preventable burden to the patient and to the healthcare system.
Incidence of skin cancer has been increasing among U.S. Hispanics, who often are diagnosed with larger lesions and at later stage disease. Behaviors to decrease exposure to ultraviolet radiation can reduce risk of skin cancer. We describe skin cancer prevention behaviors and psychosocial variables among Hispanic participants recruited into a skin cancer prevention trial. Self-reported Hispanic participants from eight primary care clinics in Tampa, Florida and Ponce, Puerto Rico were recruited into a randomized controlled prevention trial. Information on demographics, sun-related behaviors, and psychosocial variables were collected before intervention materials were provided. Multivariable regression models were used to compare baseline sun-related behaviors and psychosocial variables across groups defined by geographic location and language preference. Participants reported low levels of intentional outdoor tanning, weekday and weekend sun exposure, and very low levels of indoor tanning. However, only a minority of participants practiced sun-protective behaviors often or always, and about 30% experienced a sunburn in the past year. Participants had low levels of recent worry and concern about skin cancer, modest levels of perceived risk and severity, and high levels of response efficacy and self-efficacy. When comparing across groups defined by geographic location and language preference, English-preferring Tampa residents (hereafter referred to as Tampeños) had the highest proportion who were sunburned (35.9%) and tended toward more risky behavior but also had higher protective behavior than did Spanish-preferring Tampeños or Puerto Ricans. Spanish-preferring Puerto Ricans had higher recent concern about skin cancer, comparative chance of getting skin cancer, and response efficacy compared to either English- or Spanish-preferring Tampeños. Spanish-preferring Tampeños had the highest levels of familism and recent distress about skin cancer. Our results mirror previous observations of low levels of sun-protective behavior among U.S. Hispanics compelling the need for culturally appropriate and translated awareness campaigns targeted to this population. Because Hispanics in Tampa and Puerto Rico reported modest levels of perceived risk and severity, and high levels of response efficacy and self-efficacy, interventions aiming to improve skin cancer prevention activities that are anchored in Protection Motivation Theory may be particularly effective in this population subgroup.
Islands are uniquely vulnerable to extreme weather events and food insecurity, and have additional response challenges due to their limited landmasses and economies, isolation, colonial legacies, and high dependence of food imports. Domestic farmers have a key role in producing food for island communities like Puerto Rico, which can safeguard food security when food importation may be challenging. Nevertheless, in the context of disaster, farmers themselves may be vulnerable to food insecurity and unable to contribute to domestic markets. This paper examines Puerto Rican farmers households’ food security in the aftermath of 2017’s Hurricane Maria using a social-ecological lens. Survey data from 405 farmers gathered eight months after Maria, coupled with biophysical data from the hurricane’s impacts (winds, rains, and landslides), were analyzed. Overall, 69% of farmers experienced at least one month of food insecurity in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, and 38% reported persistent food insecurity (three months or more). A multinomial logistic regression suggests that biophysical impacts, but especially social factors, such as age and constraint access to external sources of support, are linked with persistent food insecurity. This suggests that the biophysical impacts of the hurricane interact with existing infrastructure and social resources to affect farmer vulnerability and the food environment in different ways. Thus, strengthening adaptive capacity in multiple domains can help farmers and vulnerable populations better navigate the disruptions faced during disasters to alleviate food insecurity.
Puerto Rico, a US territory, faces numerous challenges adversely affecting public health, including poverty, a fragile healthcare system, inadequate infrastructure, a debt crisis, and vulnerability to climate changerelated natural disasters. The impact of these factors on the Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQoL) measure has not been comprehensively evaluated. Only two studies have assessed HRQoL, with the latest conducted in 2011, prior to recent events that could affect public health. This study aimed to assess the HRQoL and associated sociodemographic and health risk factors among adults living in Puerto Rico in 2019. Prevalence and 95% confidence intervals were used to describe HRQoL and its associations with sociodemographic and health-related variables among adults living in Puerto Rico who answered the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey (n = 4,944) in 2019. Multivariable logistic regression models were developed to identify which of these variables were more likely to be associated with each of the four core HRQoL questions (HRQoL-4), expressed as prevalence odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals adjusted for potential confounders. Through a comprehensive multivariable analysis, we uncovered significant risk factors – increasing number of chronic conditions, advanced age, and low income – associated with poor HRQoL among adults living in Puerto Rico. Specifically, our findings suggest that individuals with an increasing number of chronic conditions were more likely to report poor HRQoL across all 4 domains. As the number of reported chronic conditions increases by one, the odds of reporting having: fair/poor general health increased by a factor of 2.24 (POR: 2.24, 95% CI: 2.08–2.41), physical health impairment increased by a factor of 1.93 (POR: 1.93, 95% CI: 1.78–2.08), mental health impairment increased by a factor of 1.90 (POR: 1.90, 95% CI: 1.78–2.02) and activity limitation increased by a factor of 1.27 ( POR: 1.27, 95% CI: 1.13–1.42). Advancing age was associated with all domains of poor HRQoL, except for the mental health domain for which we observed higher rates of poor HRQoL among the younger population (POR: 4.76, 95% CI: 2.4–9.1). This paper shows that the prevalence of poor HRQoL has not improved compared to the only previous study of HRQoL of Puerto Rico in the last decade. We also found that poor HRQoL is associated with having multiple chronic conditions in adults living in Puerto Rico. This may be a consequence of a decline in health services after natural disasters and socioeconomic downturns on the island. The study emphasizes the need for targeted interventions and ongoing monitoring of the population’s HRQoL over time to reach vulnerable subgroups, especially those with chronic conditions, advanced age, and low income, in order to reduce health disparities in Puerto Rico.
The effect of consecutive natural events on educational outcomes was analyzed by using the case study of Puerto Rico. We describe how school service interruptions related to Hurricane María and the 2020 earthquake sequence affected educational outcomes, especially among vulnerable populations. Our data come from several databases and include individual student information. The empirical analyses include the difference-in-difference method (DD), the Heckman–Copula estimation, Propensity Score Matching, the Cox and Weibull duration regressions, and the Ordinary Least Square (OLS) method. Our analysis suggests that students in severely affected areas, or whose school was permanently closed after the hurricane, have higher probabilities of decreasing their academic achievement and, for some students, dropping out of school after a disaster. We conclude with policy recommendations to increase the capacity to cope with school interruptions due to hurricanes, floods, or earthquakes.
Health care providers faced a challenge with the emergence of COVID-19 and its rapid spread. Early studies measuring the psychological impact of COVID-19 on the general population found high levels of anxiety and sleep disorders. The primary goal of this project was to assess the psychological impact of COVID-19 on physicians in Puerto Rico. A cross-sectional study of physicians in Puerto Rico was conducted anonymously and electronically from February 2021 through April 2021. The electronic survey included socio-demographic data and 4 self-administered assessment tools (Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7, Perceived Stress Scale-10, Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index and COVID-19 Organizational Support) for anxiety, perceived stress, sleep disturbances, and organizational support during the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 145 physicians completed the survey, with a female predominance of 53.5% and a majority practicing in the San Juan metropolitan area (50.3%). Mild anxiety symptoms were reported in 26.9% of physicians, and 33.8% had moderated to severe anxiety symptoms. Moderate to high perceived stress was found in 69.9% of participants, and women reported statistically significantly higher levels of anxiety symptoms (8.84 ± 5.99; p = 0.037) and stress (19.0 ± 6.94, p = 0.001). The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index reported 67.9% of physicians with global scores associated with poor sleep quality. Assessment of perceived organizational support found a high perception of work support (65.7%) but low perception of personal support (43.4%) and risk support (30.3%). A correlation analysis found a negative correlation for work and personal support, but a positive correlation for risk support, all statistically significant. COVID-19 had a lasting psychological impact on health care providers in Puerto Rico a year after the beginning of the pandemic. Our data supports the importance of organizational support and its correlation with the development of anxiety. It is thus essential to develop strategies to identify individuals at risk of experiencing psychological disturbances and to provide effective support for medical professionals during medical emergencies for their well-being and optimal delivery of patient care.
Cesarean delivery is major surgery associated with higher costs and adverse outcomes, such as surgical complications, compared with vaginal delivery (1–3). The cesarean delivery rate in Puerto Rico rose from just over 30% in the early to mid-1990s to over 40% by the early 2000s (4.5). During this time, cesarean delivery rates in Puerto Rico were 40%–70% higher than rates in the U.S. mainland and up to 78% higher than rates for Hispanic women in the U.S. Mainland (4.5). This report describes trends in Puerto Rico’s cesarean delivery rate from 2010 to 2022 and explores changes by maternal age, gestational age, and municipality from 2018 to 2022.
To describe asthma control and household environmental exposures among adults and children with asthma in Puerto Rico, a cross-sectional analysis was conducted using data from the 2014–2016 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Asthma Call-back Survey on 931 adults and 177 children with current asthma in Puerto Rico. These data were analyzed to assess the prevalence of uncontrolled asthma in Puerto Rico and potential associations with household environmental exposure to cockroaches, smoke, and mold. Asthma control was classified using daytime and nighttime symptoms, activity limitation, and short-acting beta agonist use. Prevalence and prevalence ratios were calculated, adjusting for sample weighting. An estimated 53% of adults with asthma and 29% of children with asthma in Puerto Rico have uncontrolled asthma. Among adults with asthma, in the past 30 days, 29% had seen or smelled mold and 50% had seen cockroaches; in the past week, 12% reported having someone smoke in their home. Adults with uncontrolled asthma were 1.4 times more likely to have observed mold in their homes than were those with controlled asthma when adjusting for age, sex, education, and income (prevalence ratio [95% confidence interval]: 1.4 [1.1, 1.8]). Children with uncontrolled asthma were also more likely to have mold observed in their home than were children with controlled asthma (adjusted PR[95% CI]: 3.0 [1.3, 7.1]). Uncontrolled asthma is common among adults and children with asthma in Puerto Rico. These results suggest potential differences in household mold exposure by asthma control status.