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COVID-19 Brings New Urgency to Health Outreach in NC Latino Community

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Wednesday, October 14, 2020   

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- As the coronavirus continues to affect North Carolina's Latino communities, outreach workers are providing public health information, in Spanish and culturally relevant to this growing population.

Hector Salgado, community impact director for the American Heart Association in Charlotte, was spearheading an effort to raise awareness about heart health and blood-pressure monitoring among Latinos when the pandemic hit. With help from the Mecklenburg County Public Health Department and Blue Cross/Blue Shield, he said, the program pivoted to COVID-19 prevention. As the crisis worsened, Salgado said, he began to notice what he described as rampant misinformation in the Latino community.

"And those resources are not reflected," he said. "I went to the farmer's market and I saw signs, I saw social distancing. And then, I go to the flea market, where there's a lot more Latinos, and I don't see any signs, I didn't see any social distancing."

This month, he said, ads in print, on radio and social media will emphasize the importance of wearing masks and include Mecklenburg County's COVID hotline number. Anyone with questions or concerns about the coronavirus can call 980-314-9400.

Salgado said the six-week heart-health pilot program has transitioned to virtual classes and now is training more than 100 community members on how to monitor blood pressure. He noted that around 47% of Hispanic men and 40% of women have hypertension. Research shows that puts a person at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness.

"Particularly with a lot of the churches, they said, 'People would come out here and give us a lecture on blood pressure, but nobody gave us the machines to actually do it.' So, we created this curriculum with this mentality that the community has most of the resources that they need," he said. "We're going to give them the things that are missing."

In the past decade, Salgado said, North Carolina's Latino population has nearly tripled -- and yet, these neighborhoods often are neglected in terms of public-health outreach.

"You know, as a Latino, I think that we need to start demanding more," he said. "We need to start asking why, if we're accounting for 50% of the cases, where is the accountability? Where are the resources going to make sure these numbers are coming down?"

He said he hopes the "Promotores de Salud" initiative results in more testing, increased mask-wearing and greater social distancing among Latino residents.

Disclosure: American Heart Association of North Carolina contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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