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NIEHS in the [Latino] Community

By Colleen Chandler
October 2005

right to left, Xiao-Ping Yang, Karina Rodriguez, and Gerard Roman
Xiao-Ping Yang, right, a biologist in the Laboratory of Respiratory Biology, Karina Rodriguez, center, an Intramural Research Training Award recipient, and Gerard Roman, handed out Spanish health information at the La Fiesta del Pueblo on Sept. 10. Six people from NIEHS volunteered their time to work at the information booth. Those who do not speak Spanish found other ways to be helpful, like stocking supplies. (Photo by Colleen Chandler)

Between 1990 and 2000, the number of Latinos in North Carolina nearly quadrupled, giving North Carolina the fastest growing Latino population in the United States. According to the North Carolina Institute of Medicine report, "NC Latino Health 2003," most Latinos in the state are recent immigrants.

Latinos are a diverse group from a variety of Spanish-speaking countries. They face a distinct set of health-care challenges based on the lack of health insurance coverage, language barriers, culture-based health care beliefs and a general unfamiliarity with the U.S. health care system, according to the report.

Gerard Roman, an NIH equal employment opportunity specialist at NIEHS, and a cadre of volunteers organized by Linda Yu, a member of the NIEHS Diversity Council, undertook a public education campaign targeting the Latino community. The group set up an information booth with Spanish materials from a number of institutes under the umbrella of NIH offering a wealth of health information at the Feria de Salud, or health fair, a part of the La Fiesta del Pueblo.

La Fiesta del Pueblo is an annual cultural festival at the state fairgrounds in Raleigh. This year it was Sept. 10 and 11. It is sponsored by El Pueblo, Inc., a nonprofit Latino advocacy group. NIEHS has participated in the event for the last five years.

Roman said one of the volunteers walked through the crowds, directing expectant moms to the NIH booth, to pick up free promotional baby shirts provided by the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development. The tiny t-shirts are part of the NICHD Back to Sleep campaign to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The shirts are imprinted with the slogan "Dormir Boca Arriba" as a reminder in Spanish that infants should be placed on their backs to sleep.

Besides Roman, other volunteers from NIEHS who participated were Karina Rodriguez, Lysandra Castro, Juanita Roman, Fernando Suarez, Xiao-Ping Yang and Kathy Odenwald. A Chapel Hill High School student, Janice Tsai, also joined with NIEHS.

Roman said many other booths at the health fair offered NIH health information in Spanish, including research grant programs like "No Fumo" (tobacco prevention), "Communidad Sana" (breast cancer) and the NIEHS Sister Study. He said many of the people he spoke with told him they would read the material then send it to their families in Mexico, where such health information is scarce. "It was good to see NIH funding put into good use for a noble cause," Roman said.

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