A prescription for Latino health
June 12, 2012
In order to improve healthcare among the Latino population in Summit County, The People’s Health Clinic decided to bring together those who help and understand the Latino community the most and have a meeting of the minds.
Funded through a grant provided by the Utah State Department of Health’s Office of Health Disparity Reduction, The People’s Health Clinic organized a community workgroup for Latino health. Made up of members from service organizations, non-profits, Summit and Wasatch health departments and the Park City School District, members are focused on advocating a healthy lifestyle, helping women have healthier babies and encouraging more Latinos to have a regular family doctor.
According to People’s Health Clinic Community Outreach Coordinator Sarah Klingenstein, the workgroup serves as a brain trust and a way for each organization to implement new programs with the help of the others.
"Our group will be together for a year and a half, so we wanted to hit the ground running and are already seeing some amazing connections and networking happen," Klingenstein said. "These people really know what resonates with the Latino community and the cultural and language barriers that are stopping some from leading healthier lives."
The rates of obesity and chronic illness in the Latino population are higher than the general population in Utah, Klingenstein said, adding that economics, traditional lifestyle habits and a lack of knowledge contribute to less healthy living.
"We want to let people know that they should wait 16 months between pregnancies, breastfeed their babies, get regular check-ups and make healthier food choices," she said.
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Blanca Gohary, owner of the Park City restaurant Good Karma and a member of the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce said that as a someone who was raised in the Hispanic community, she has a first-hand knowledge of some of the health issues Latinos face and she wants to help.
"Some health issues are caused by a lack of access to healthy foods and economic issues," Gohary said. "The Latino population has less knowledge about healthy habits like exercising to reduce the risk of diabetes or high cholesterol. I was fortunate enough to be college educated and have access to healthy foods, so I think it is my social obligation to help others."
Gohary and other members of the workgroup are working with Latinos to change the way they cook traditional foods in order to make them healthier. Gohary said they will be making posters and recipe cards for the Park City Christian Center Food Pantry that encourage people to make better choices, like using olive oil instead of lard when making refried beans or grilling food instead of deep frying.
Klingenstein said the recipes cards and posters will also include information about how to prepare fruits and vegetables that people may be unfamiliar with.
"Oftentimes, people won’t take things like cauliflower because they don’t know what to do with it, so we are hoping that these will help encourage people to choose healthier foods from the food pantry," Klingenstein said. "The posters will encourage even small changes, like choosing one-percent milk over whole milk."
Rob Harter, executive director of the Park City Christen Center said that prior to becoming involved in the Latino health workgroup, the Christian Center’s food pantry was already trying to stock the shelves with healthier alternatives.
"The workgroup has allowed us to work with more people and approach healthier eating through a variety of ways," Harter said. "Instead of having unlimited bread and sweets on the shelves, we are going to have vegetables and fruits so that people are more apt to take them. The workgroup also made a healthy lifestyle video in Spanish that is playing in the lobby of the food pantry so people learn what foods are good and bad."
Harter said they do not want to "overwhelm" people with the healthily lifestyle message, instead they want to educate and explain the advantages that healthy food can have.
"It is as simple as encouraging people to choose wheat bread over white," he said. "And while it is all dependent on what is donated to us by the grocery stores and food drives, we want people to choose healthy food when we do have it," he said.
The workgroup has also instituted a variety of free exercise programs for the Latino community. The People’s Health Clinic has begun walking groups and the Park City School District is conducting Zumba classes for Latina moms.
For more information on the community workgroup for Latino health visit www. peopleshealthclinic.org.