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New Latino Health Center Offers Coordinated Care

Date: October 1, 2013

Tina Cheng is leading a home base for Latino care across disciplines.
Tina Cheng is leading a home base for Latino care across disciplines.

Three years ago, when infectious disease specialists Kathleen Page and Adriana Andrade started a network of faculty aiming to improve quality, outcomes and access to care for Latinos and conduct community outreach, they dreamed of establishing an official center for Latino health.

Now that dream is a reality. Centro SOL: Johns Hopkins Center for Promoting Health/Salud and Opportunity for Latinos opened in August 2013 at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

The new center emphasizes a family-centered approach to health that bridges medicine, pediatrics, gynecology and obstetrics, and psychiatry. It will focus on enhancing the health of Latinos in Baltimore and beyond by combining coordinated clinical care with advocacy, education and research.

The initiative was made possible by a five-year grant from the Aaron and Lillie Straus Foundation, and matching funds from Johns Hopkins Bayview, the Johns Hopkins’ School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Health System.

Chief among the center’s goals is learning about the Latino community’s health needs and developing programs to address them, says Tina Cheng, director of the center, director of pediatrics at Bayview and an expert on health disparities in minority populations. Cheng is working with Page and Andrade, along with pediatricians Sarah Polk and Lisa DeCamp, to lead its operations.

Baltimore’s rapidly growing Latino population, largely immigrants, face a number of health issues, like childhood obesity and diabetes, dental cavities, mental health needs and barriers to health care, says Cheng. But, she notes, “they also have areas of positive health behavior and health outcomes that we can learn from, like strong families and good birth outcomes.”      

The center will envelop the Hopkins Organization for Latino Awareness (HOLA), started by Page and Andrade, which has a variety of programs, including cultural competency courses for medical students and free HIV testing for community residents. It also will expand the Latino Family Advisory Board, started by Polk and DeCamp, made up of patient families who offer feedback on clinical services and needs. 

The funding came about through Cheng’s relationship with the Straus Foundation, built from projects funded at the Harriet Lane Clinic. When she approached foundation representatives about helping to support a center for Latino health, “they were very interested,” she says, in part because the founders were particularly eager to help immigrant families.

“We’re thankful to the donors for kicking this off, and to Johns Hopkins Medicine for supporting us,” Cheng says. “In tight financial times, the university demonstrated its commitment to its missions to improve the health of the community and the world and to set the standard of excellence in medical education and research related to Latino health.”

The funding allows investigators to strengthen HOLA’s research base; develop and test interventions to reduce health disparities for Latinos; expand collaborations with other Johns Hopkins and Baltimore city entities, like Head Start and Women, Infants and Children (WIC); set up a website; and hire a full-time administrator.

As an added bonus, says Page, the center already has garnered interest from many students in the schools of medicine, nursing and public health, and from the Homewood campus offering to help or conduct research, and several Department of Medicine residents have expressed interest in staying at Johns Hopkins to continue work through the center.