Caring for all: Inside UI Health Care’s efforts to reach Spanish-speaking populations

Despite comprising only 6% of Iowa’s population, the Latinx community makes up nearly 30% of COVID-19 cases in the state.

While there are many barriers to health care for the Latinx population—including a language gap, crowded housing and workspaces that can expedite disease transmission, access to health insurance, and more—UI Health Care is making strides to ensure this population receives the care they need.

Reaching your audience

With the help of Eleanor Lisa Lavadie-Gomez, MD, and others, UI Health Care has recently hosted a series of Facebook Live events in Spanish in an effort to further educate the Latinx community on current health care information.

“I think it’s important to reach the Latinx community because I see them as ambassadors,” says Lavadie-Gomez, family medicine physician. “If they can be a source of good information that can go further than even the borders of our community, that’s terrific. I know there have been people watching as far away as Brazil, Argentina, and Peru, which is pretty remarkable. And to know that that information is coming from Iowa, that makes me really proud that we can be on the forefront of disseminating good information.”

With so many different sources providing information during the COVID-19 pandemic, Lavadie-Gomez emphasizes the importance of receiving credible information from a well-informed source.

“While the internet gives people access to a lot of information, a lot of times it’s misinformation,” she says. “So they’re getting mixed messages about safe interactions, about home remedies that they might be trying, or even about things they’ve heard secondhand through the news or through another friend. Unfortunately, that can also be a barrier to receiving appropriate care if you’re relying on not well-informed sources.”

Always improving

Seeing the disproportionately high number of COVID-19 cases in the Latinx population, Lavadie-Gomez is grateful for the opportunity to inform members of the Spanish-speaking community.

“UI Health Care has done a great job being open to the possibility of creating bridges of communication through social media avenues,” says Lavadie-Gomez. “They’ve provided a platform for those of us that work intimately within the Spanish-speaking population to reach out, and they’ve allowed me some freedom to use my judgment based on my experience working in this community to say, ‘This is what I think the community could benefit from as far as information.’ Any information that we can provide that’s reliable, and from people that speak the language and that know the culture, that makes a big difference.”

Despite making significant improvements toward bettering health care for the Latinx community, Lavadie-Gomez believes there’s continued opportunities to improve—whether it’s ensuring that resources are available in more than one language or simply encouraging our patients to talk with their providers about their needs.

“Ensuring there are more language appropriate resources, especially whenever there’s new messaging, that’s important,” she says. “We’ve had respiratory clinic patient information handouts available in Spanish, Swahili, French, and that’s significant. We should also encourage people to talk with their providers about what their community needs are. We only know as much as our patients tell us. Listening to them is a really important part in learning what the community needs.”

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