Of the Community, By the Community,
For the Community
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Hayes says experience demonstrates that, in addition to
language barriers for Spanish speakers seeking care from English-speaking
health-care providers, Latino seniors in greater Los Angeles often
have cultural values that impede healthy life-style choices. For
example, many dishes popular in Latino cultures are cooked with
lard, and cooks may be reluctant to vary from tradition in choosing
healthier alternatives. In addition, some cultures may frown upon
elderly women walking in the park or around the block for exercise.
"Some of these seniors may find it's very unusual for a woman
this age to be walking around in sneakers," Hayes says. "Or
they can't imagine eating something different than the rest of the
Hayes and Rodriguez emphasize that Latinos are not homogenous;
immigrants from El Salvador may have different customs and traditions
affecting life-style choices than, say, those from Guatemala or
Mexico. Or members of certain ethnicities may not share identical
views of health care in Los Angeles.
The focus groups will help determine how best to promote healthy
life-styles to seniors in five distinct communities, which will
be chosen based on concentration of seniors and participation of
health-care providers and community-service groups.
Rodriguez, the son of Mexican and Salvadoran immigrants, credits
WISE's former executive director, Maria Arechaederra, with the concept
for Healthy Abuelos as a tool to help bring together social-service
and health-care providers to assist seniors.
"(Academicians) are good at pointing out what the problems
are," says Rodriguez, who chairs the Latino Coalition for Healthy
California, a statewide advocacy group for both health-care providers
and consumers. "What we need to do more of is identify solutions
in the real world, solutions you can pick up and apply in ethnically
diverse communities. That takes trust, and trust takes time."
— Phil Hampton