TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Underlying health conditions make it harder for coronavirus patients to fight off the illness. Heart disease is a big problem in the Latino community, which has some of the highest numbers of COVID-19. As the pandemic continues, doctors are worried chronic health conditions will cause more problems in this population.
As a Mexican-American, Rosy Bailey is all too familiar with the sense of fear associated with going to the doctor.
“For years and years, she never went to go see a doctor, she never did preventative care and we’d always tell her, ‘Mom, you have to go to the doctor you need to know,'” she remembers. “Unfortunately my mother is now at an age where she’s relying on costly medication to address that heart disease that she now has.”
Her story is a common one but with a better ending than most. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one killer of Hispanic women. And, almost 50% of Latino men have some type of cardiac condition. AHA has launched Go Red Por Tu Corazón to educate the Hispanic community on their risks of developing heart disease.
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University of South Florida Cardiologist Dr. Joel Fernandez worries about kids, too. He says obesity is rising in Hispanic children ages 9 to 12 and that’s a large risk factor for heart disease. His primary concern is a lack of resources tailored to this population which is predisposed to certain chronic conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and obesity. He says every subgroup of Latinos, categorized as Mexican, Caribbean, and Central and South American, has a unique predisposition to each of those conditions that can’t be faced head one without proper medical knowledge.
“Programs that are culturally sensitive so they can have an impact,” he said.
That’s the goal of Puentes de Salud, or Bridges to Health. It’s a program created by the Hispanic Services Council based in Tampa. Bailey’s personal experience helps her passionately lead the program. It integrates health advocates called ‘promotoras’ into hard-to-reach Hispanic communities in Tampa Bay to empower individuals.
“Reaching individuals where they are, in the churches, in the bodegas, in the park,” said Bailey.
The goal is to reduce the fear of a diagnosis and encourage people to take charge of their lives and make positive changes to improve their health.
“Paying more attention to what you eat. Making and effort of being more active,” urges Dr. Fernandez.
As the number of coronavirus cases surge in the Latino community, Dr. Fernandez says it’s even more critical to get educated on your risk for chronic conditions and take preventative measures.
“We can remove those excuses; we can remove those barriers,” said Bailey about the efforts made my Puentes de Salud.
An avid gardener, she’s planting seeds of change to break an unhealthy cycle in both her community and her family.
“I involved my children at a young age and often times kicking and screaming but they where there with me in the garden connecting back to the earth,” she said.
The Hispanic Services Council is currently offering classes via Zoom, Facebook Live and over the phone. We’ve listed the programs below. For more information you can contact the council at Salud@hispanicservicescouncil.org or call 813-693-0195.
Programs Offered by the Hispanic Services Council:
Comprando Rico y Sano/Buying Healthy Delicious Food:
· Nutrition Education classes (Charla’s) that cover MyPlate, healthy eating, healthy shopping, and SNAP. This can be delivered in a one-time class (2 hours) or in a 6-week series that last 1 hour and provides healthy recipe sampling. The final class in the series is a grocery store challenge that is conducted at the nearest grocery store (we do not provide transportation). During the grocery store challenge, each participant receives a $5 gift card to purchase a healthy meal for 4.
· Healthy Connections is a 5-week health literacy series lasting 1 hour each class. This series teaches individuals to understand basic health information and the impact their choices have on their own health. We cover a variety of topics such as key measures of health (including personal health screenings), where to go for health care, how to talk with your doctor, healthy eating, and how to maintain a healthy state both mental and physical.
· Cooking Matters is a 6-week series, hands on course, which teaches individuals to shop for and cook healthy meals on a budget. We cover a variety of topics such as MyPlate, portion sizes, reading labels, saving money at the grocery market, meal planning and how to select healthier options. Each of our recipes are under $20. Participants also learn about kitchen safety and culinary techniques.
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