The 9th Annual Strong & Healthy Latinas: Love Yourself, Love Your Family event, held recently at Bayard Middle School in Wilmington, attracted more than 300 people who came to learn about breast health, receive flu shots and screenings, schedule mammograms, exercise and hear inspiring speakers give tips for keeping their families healthy and strong. The day-long program also featured an educational Latina Baby Shower for new moms and dads or those considering starting families.
The Spanish-language event is part health fair, part inspirational program, with a healthy dose of fun sprinkled throughout the day in the form of Zumba, raffles and giveaways. Screenings and exhibits drew the most ever participants, with 131 flu shots given by health care professionals from Henrietta Johnson Medical Center and more than 60 blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol screenings provided by Christiana Care outreach workers, with the help of medical interpreters. In addition, more than 76 women visited our pink display table to report that they had completed their annual mammograms, while 34 women asked for assistance scheduling theirs. Christiana Care health navigators were available to help anyone who needed assistance.
The program — Latinas Fuertes y Saludables in Spanish — is held each year by Christiana Care Health System’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute, supported by Susan G. Komen Philadelphia’s grant funding. Breast cancer is the leading cause of death among Latina women, according to the American Cancer Society, so the event always has a strong focus on breast health.
Reaching out through events such as this is one of the ways Christiana Care works to improve the health of the Latina community.
“The main goal of the conference is to educate the Hispanic community about breast health, access to care and other issues that impact health,” said Nora Katurakes, RN, MSN, OCN. She called this year’s conference “a great success” and said it also offered health educators new opportunities. “We discovered that Latina women who are at the right age for mammograms often need help accessing them so we’re working on that issue as a follow-up.”
The morning session offered a welcome address by cancer center staff and Wilmington City Councilwoman Maria D. Cabrera. This was followed by: a Zumba exercise session; “Know What is Normal for You: Breast Self-Awareness” presented by Joceline Valentin of the Cancer Center; “A Survivor’s Story” by Liz Sandra Zenos; and a healthy family presentation by Luisa Ortiz, Christiana Care Healthy Family program manager, and Guadalupe Castaneda, promotora — an individual in the Latina community who has received special training to provide basic health education in the community. Promotoras were on hand all day to help with the event.
The Latina Baby Shower was a first-time program at the conference offered by Christiana Care health ambassadors, with the goal to help young families get a healthy start. Using a “Jeopardy”-like game to broach topics such as breastfeeding, developmental milestones, safe sleep, mental health and life planning, ambassadors communicated key messages to the audience.
The Cancer Center’s outreach and education staff work hard all year to improve health throughout the community by educating people, particularly women, who then take what they learned back to their families and communities. It’s a model that Joceline Valentin, coordinator of the Strong & Healthy Latinas program, hopes works. “My hope is that attendees take at least one thing from the event and put it into practice in their daily lives,” she said. “If they learn one new thing every year, that’s a victory.”
Valentin notes that each year she is happy to see many of the same women attending the event, as well as many new faces. Nimia Burgos and Melania Ramos are a mother-daughter pair who have attended the conference each of its nine years. This year they were joined by Ramos’s daughter, Kiera Twyman, 14, adding a third-generation family member to the list of attendees.
“Every year I learn something new. This year I learned to check and be aware of my body,” said Ramos. “I will continue to check myself and talk to my family and friends about the value of being aware and the prevention of any breast cancer or other types of cancers.”
The Strong & Healthy Latinas conference is sponsored each year by Christiana Care to educate Latina women and families, and, hopefully, become long-term partners in their health. Other event partners include the American Cancer Society, Arsht Cannon Fund, Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, Henrietta Johnson Medical Center, Latin American Community Center, Saint Francis Healthcare, Susan G. Komen Philadelphia and Westside Family Healthcare.
Photo gallery: Strong and Healthy Latinas
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