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Search - Latino Health Outreach Boosts Care and Awareness

Search Spring 2013

Latino Health Outreach Boosts Care and Awareness

Date: May 1, 2013

Kathleen Page, Adriana Andrade and Alicia Arbaje have spearheaded health care outreach efforts to neighboring Latinos of all ages.
Kathleen Page, Adriana Andrade and Alicia Arbaje have spearheaded health care outreach efforts to neighboring Latinos of all ages.

A few years ago infectious diseases specialists Kathleen Page and Adriana Andrade noticed an uptick in Latinos with HIV. While patients received good clinical care, Page and Andrade observed significant language barriers, and, with support from Medicine Director Mike Weisfeldt, set out to find colleagues willing to provide culturally appropriate medical care in Spanish.

Baltimore’s Latino population has grown tremendously over the past decade, especially at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, where more than half of pediatric patients and 45 percent of obstetric patients are Latino, Page says.

In 2010, Page and Andrade started HOLA—the Hopkins Organization for Latino Awareness. The network of 15 active Latino faculty members and others aim to improve quality, outcomes and access to care for Latinos at Johns Hopkins through scholarship, education and policy leadership. The group has directed a range of activities, including cultural competency courses for medical students, health seminars at the school of public health, and an elective through which trainees in Hopkins’ urban health residency program treat Latino patients at La Esperanza Center, a free clinic for immigrants, supervised by HOLA faculty.

One form of outreach is through the media. Geriatrician Alicia Arbaje has been interviewed about health topics in English and Spanish for the local ABC morning television show, CNN International, NBC Nightly News, National Public Radio and Spanish-language public radio programs. Internal medicine resident Berenice Nava established a bimonthly column for the Baltimore-based Latino Opinion newspaper. Andrade has worked with the regional El Zol radio network, a division of CBS in Lanham, Md., to feature Spanish-language interviews with Hopkins experts about health topics. The programs, which air every six weeks on Sunday mornings, are introduced by popular DJ Patricia de Lima and feature topics like HIV/AIDS, hypertension and brain cancer. 

Because of this relationship, El Zol personalities de Lima, morning DJ Pedro Biaggi and psychologist Claudia Campos promoted and participated in a recent education program that Johns Hopkins hosted for the community on reducing domestic violence.

Community outreach is another arm. HOLA faculty sponsor an annual health fair at La Esperanza Center that provides free care to more than 150 patients, and they regularly volunteer at the center. Page directs an HIV outreach program providing free HIV testing in community settings to more than 1,200 Latinos each year. Arbaje has addressed the Comiendo Juntos (“Eating Together”) program, a bimonthly lunch meeting for older Latinos held at the Assisi House of St. Patrick in Fells Point, about health and wellness, and recruited fellows and a personal trainer as guest speakers.

“Many participants don’t understand that geriatrics is a special field,” Arbaje says. “For some reason, these older adults are not coming to Johns Hopkins. I want to let them know we are available.”

In pediatrics, Sarah Polk has tapped another demographic—young mothers: “The majority of Latino parents we see have limited English proficiency. We want to accommodate them and tailor care so it’s linguistically and culturally appropriate.”

About 18 months ago at Bayview, Polk helped establish the Latino Family Advisory Board, a group of six to 12 mothers who meet several evenings a year to give feedback on the pediatrics clinic. The moms reported they were satisfied with the clinical care but felt the waiting room was boring and the carpet was dirty. The carpet was removed and funding was obtained for educational materials and children’s books to occupy families waiting for appointments. Other clinic activities include a monthly parenting class to address behavior issues in young children, and the development of a dental health tool kit for families.

All these efforts have led to a progressive increase in patients, says Page, who hopes to attract larger funding to establish an official Center for Latino Health. HOLA “has far exceeded our expectations.”