By Nicole Catá, Policy Intern
In a recent Newsweek article, J. Lester Feder argues that health-policy strategies geared toward Latino communities must take into account the cultural diversity of different Latino groups. He explains:
With Latinos now accounting for more than 15 percent of the U.S. population, there is a great deal of emphasis on health outreach to the “Hispanic community.” But the truth is, the diversity of the Hispanic population means that to be truly effective, outreach must target many different Hispanic subcommunities. Knowing that someone is “Latino” or “Hispanic” does not tell a health-care worker what language she speaks, what foods she eats, or where she was born.
The varied experiences of Latino communities inform the approaches of organizations that work directly in areas with large Latino populations. For example, the Institute of Hispanic Health at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) operates in communities across the U.S. with the support of 300 affiliated groups and uses a method that instructs promotores de salud, or health promoters, within the communities they assist. NCLR trains the promoters to produce interventions that will strike a chord with the specific demographic with which they’ll be interacting.
The article addresses the different eating habits of two distinct Latino populations within one city, Hartford, CT, to illustrate the need for culturally appropriate health services. The Hispanic Health Council found that:
People of Mexican origin account for only 10 percent of Hartford’s Latino population, and they are largely new immigrants. HHC’s research found that that group is more likely to have fresh produce in their diets than people from the Puerto Rican majority, a community that has been in Hartford for decades.
The article concludes that promotores de salud must be sensitive to the levels of integration and different cultural practices within each distinct Latino community to generate solutions for the health disparities within specific regions. This analysis proves relevant to Latinas due to the correlation between nutrition and reproductive health:
The health of the newborn is largely a function of the mother’s health and nutrition status and of her access to health care.
The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health has studied the benefits of training promotores/as de salud and has found that their work helps individuals access health care services, encourages leadership within communities, and is amenable to a reproductive justice framework. Promoters who study nutrition could, for instance, help Latinas determine the best health care services based on their nutritional and reproductive needs and push for health policies that reflect these specific factors. I hope that more communities embrace the promotores/as model to address and embrace the diversity among Latino groups.
By Nicole Catá, Policy Intern