Two White House Events Highlight Our Role in Making Latinos Healthier

By Manuela McDonough, Program Manager, Institute for Hispanic Health, NCLR

For Hispanic Heritage Month this year, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) had an opportunity to participate in two very exciting events at the White House that celebrated the history, culture, and contributions of Latinos in the U.S.

A September 26 briefing focused on the promotores de salud (community health workers) program model.  Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and former NCLR Senior Vice President, opened the session by talking about the importance of addressing Latino health issues in a culturally competent manner.  Other high-level government officials and community-based researchers followed by sharing examples of successful promotores projects.

The highlight of the event, however, was a memo from President Obama honoring National Promotores de Salud and Community Health Workers Day.  In the memo, President Obama said that promotores “play a critical role in closing our country’s healthcare gaps,” and through their tireless efforts promotores are contributing to the well-being and health of this nation.  The president’s recognition of the hard work that these committed professionals and volunteers do give hope to the future of promotores programs.  These vital members of the community have been underappreciated for many years.

For the second event, NCLR had an opportunity work directly with the White House Office of Public Engagement to organize a Latino Health Policy Briefing for our Board members and Affiliates.  On October 11, approximately 30 Affiliate leaders and Board members gathered from throughout the country to participate in this briefing, which emphasized the Affordable Care Act.  The briefing provided an opportunity to elevate the key interests and needs of our Affiliates as we enter a new stage of health care reform implementation.  Our Affiliates and Board members heard from Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, the top health appointee from the National Economic Council, and the U.S. Chief Technology Officer on improving access via system transformation, achieving health equity, and improving cultural competency in service delivery.

Now that Hispanic Heritage Month is over, we are moving forward with a clearer understanding of the Obama administration’s approach to addressing the growing health needs of the Latino population.  We can be proud of what Latinos have done to make us a healthier country.



NCLR’s Cervical Cancer Prevention Program Takes Top Honors

By Manuela McDonough, Program Manager, Institute of Hispanic Health, NCLR

Luck is in the air in San Francisco this week. Not only did the Giants sweep the World Series earlier this week, but NCLR (National Council of La Raza) received an award from the American Public Health Association (APHA) for a cervical cancer prevention program we developed. Thousands of public health professionals are in the Bay area for the week attending the 140th APHA Annual Meeting & Expo, the largest gathering of public health professionals in the world with a focus on current and emerging health science, policy, and practice issues in an effort to prevent disease and promote health.

With funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NCLR created a program, titled “Mujer Sana, Familia Fuerte” (Strong woman, Strong Family), that is a culturally competent and linguistically appropriate education program for Latinas about the importance of engaging in early cancer screenings. With rates of cervical cancer affecting Latinas disproportionately high, we’ve seen an urgent need for culturally competent and linguistically appropriate health educational materials that address cervical cancer among Latinas in an innovative and creative way. The program provides promotores de salud (lay health educators) with training and a bilingual tool kit for educational sessions within Hispanic neighborhoods in Chicago and Washington, D.C. At NCLR, we are doing all that we can to ensure that health materials are providing messages that are effective with the Latino community to make a long-term impact.

The award-winning program was selected from a competitive pool for demonstrating innovation in materials targeting a specific population. Focus groups helped determine the best approach and terminology for increasing knowledge and changing behavior related to cancer screening in a way that would resonate with Latinos. The bilingual tool kit—which includes a flip chart and handouts on local resources—is designed for promotores to use during one-hour charlas (health education sessions) in their communities.

NCLR is thrilled to have received this award from APHA. Given that the cervical cancer rates among Hispanics are nearly twice that of non-Hispanic Whites, this award highlights how important it is for public health programs to take cultural issues into consideration, work with community leaders, and use bilingual materials. We look forward continuing our efforts to address the health needs of our community.