A combination of health education, walking groups, yoga classes and aerobics to a Latin beat benefited nearly 300 Latina women of child-bearing age in the Barrio Logan/Logan Heights section of San Diego during its first two years.
Healthcare, in any language (community -- winner)
Latinas empowered through Calif.'s Proyecto Salud
Launched in 2006 by Family Health Centers of San Diego, the Proyecto Salud y Esperanza healthy lifestyles initiative is aimed at immigrant Latinas with a body mass index of more than 25. The project includes components dealing with health and wellness, physical activity, and an eight-week health and well-being education program.
“We had felt that there was a real need in the community for women to be able to participate in lifestyle behavioral changes, but we had never had an opportunity to do so because there was a lack of funding,” says Logan Heights Family Health Center Director Janet Adamian, whose agency received $145,000 per year from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration. “They didn't have any opportunity to participate in any type of exercise.”
Selling dance as an aerobic activity was a no-brainer, but yoga was less familiar to women in the community. “Because of the stress level these women had, being socially isolated, we felt it was important to include that component,” she says. “They were far from home. They didn't know anybody. The neighborhoods did not feel safe to them. The physical changes have been important, but also the mental outlook.”
According to screenings at the outset of their participation and repeated six months later, of the 110 women who completed all three project elements from 2006 through 2008, 98% showed greater health knowledge, 82% lost weight, 57% cut cholesterol, 53% lowered their glucose and 46% reduced their blood pressure. One participant, Esmeralda Sanchez, lost more than 50 pounds and reduced her clothing size from 22 to 10. These results have earned Family Health Centers the 2009 Spirit of Excellence Award for Community.
Nine promotoras, or community peer health advocates, have been trained as part of the initiative, and their educational work regarding nutrition, exercise and general health has reached community members through “vecino a vecino” (neighbor to neighbor) sessions in people's homes. “We knew if the message was delivered by somebody from the community, it would be better accepted,” Adamian says.
“They really took time to understand where Latina women are coming from and what would motivate them to make health changes,” says community category judge Sandra Gordon, director of public relations at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. “Their results are outstanding, and I think it is great that they have created a replicable model.”
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