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UCLA Magazine Summer 2004
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Summer 2004
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 family."

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

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