After practicing for more than 20 years as a family physician in underserved areas of Los Angeles, Luis Pacheco, MD, sees a “tidal wave” of Hispanic consumers building in the United States. “It’s coming, and there is no stopping it,” says Pacheco, a former faculty member at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. recently spoke with Pacheco, who is a medical celebrity on Spanish-language radio and television and the creator of the supplement brand Dr. Pacheco Naturalmente, about how this tidal wave could shape the future of wellness in America.

Why should organic, natural and healthy product companies and retailers be paying attention to the U.S. Hispanic community?

Luis Pacheco, MD: The United States is now home to at least 50 million Latinos. To put this in perspective, there are more Hispanics in the United States than there are people in Canada. To really bring it home, there are more Hispanics in the United States than there are people in Spain. So, the United States is now the mother country for Hispanics. The U.S. Hispanic community is also the fastest-growing population by far because of very high birth rates, and it is a very young population. In the next 50 years, the Latino population in the United States is expected to triple and make up about 30 percent of the U.S. population. The spending power of Hispanics in the United States is now over a trillion dollars, even with the recession.

How would you describe people’s relationship with health and wellness within the U.S. Hispanic community?

LP: Unfortunately, what we have seen with most immigrant groups over the years going back to the turn of the century is that these communities do not tend to engage in prevention. For the most part, they wait until there is a big problem—until they are really feeling poorly—before seeking care. In general, within the U.S. Hispanic community, there is a mistrust of the conventional healthcare system on the one hand. But, on the other hand, amongst Hispanics, the doctor is still a respected figure, much more revered than in other cultures. Yet, there is also that fear, well, if I go to the doctor he is going to find something wrong with me, so I won’t go to the doctor. Hispanics tend to underutilize the healthcare system for a number of reasons—obviously cultural, as well as economic. Unfortunately, many Hispanic people live without health insurance coverage. It is expensive for them to seek medical care if they have to pay cash because they cannot get to some type of free clinic.