You recently launched NuestraSalud, a Spanish-language site providing information resources related to health and wellness in Rhode Island’s Latin@ communities. Tell us about the need that led to it.
For over 30 years I have been educating the Latin@ community on issues related to health and politics through my radio show, now on Latina 100.3FM. From the beginning of the pandemic, I found myself spending inordinate amounts of time dispelling rumors and false information that my audience and online followers were forwarding to me. It became clear to me that trying to combat all this misinformation required more than just an episodic intervention on the radio, or online. A study evaluating false information online regarding COVID showed that 70% of content that was labelled false or misleading by Facebook in English was still showing up in Spanish. In the absence of easily accessible and trusted resources in Spanish, the loud voices on social media from all over the Spanish-speaking world were winning the hearts and minds of people. Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were loaded with crazy content such as the one depicting people becoming magnetic after getting the vaccine.
I decided we needed to have a resource that would help people find the right information from the right sources, given the fact that health literacy in this community has been found to be quite low. Approximately 41% of Latin@s have below-basic, and 74% low levels of health literacy. Inadequate health literacy is recognized as a stronger predictor of poor health than age, income, employment status, education level, or race. NuestraSalud.com hopes to be a tool for consumers and providers to increase such low levels of knowledge about health.
Let’s have you break down NuestraSalud’s components. First, the Medical Encyclopedia. What will people find there?
We partnered with A.D.A.M, one of the most recognized sources of medical images and information to develop a resource that could assist patients in understanding all aspects of health. Within the encyclopedia you can find tools to understand diseases, conditions, tests, surgeries, and procedures. There are sections dedicated to teaching the user what questions to ask their doctor, which screening tests to have done according to age, assistance with weight loss, glycemic control, nutrition and even poison management. Almost any question you may have related to health can be answered by the information we provide.
Next, Resources. What is there?
One of the things I found out as I was researching sources of content for the site is that there is a lot of information in Spanish by national organizations and the federal government — but it is so difficult to find and navigate. In this section we hope to collect online resources that have been vetted as accurate and responsible. Doing a Google search has become so much less useful because commercial interests are always on top of the results and the chance of finding irrelevant or just plain false information is high. We make it easy for people to find all sorts of health sources in Spanish in case they can’t find what they need in our medical encyclopedia.
Latin@s are notoriously absent when it comes to clinical studies. This makes for problems with the validity of the data obtained since it may not be representative of the community at large. Lack of translation of recruitment documents and frankly the lack of trust between researchers and the community play a role. Translating the documents to Spanish and presenting the studies on a site that people can trust and understand can go a long way to increase recruitment opportunities and trust.
What type of content is available on the Podcasts and Videos page?
This is a repository of all of the videos and podcasts I have done through the years. Some of the content may be a duplication. except that user preference is very important as we hope to not leave anyone behind. They are all single-topic and less than 25 minutes each, which makes for easy listening or watching. It is also helpful for those who can’t read well
And lastly, there is a Medical Directory. It’s a user-friendly way to find medical professionals in a variety of specialties. Give us an overview of how it works.
When I was in active practice, I was always confronted by patients looking for PCP’s or specialists that spoke Spanish or at least had the infrastructure around them to serve the Latin@ community. Thanks to the assistance by Neighborhood Health Plan, I was able to build a list that serves this purpose. It is also important for providers to find each other and create opportunities for fellowship and camaraderie, in addition to referrals.
An enormous amount of work has gone into NuestraSalud. Besides yourself, who are some of the other leaders who were involved?
Thus far I have been involved all by myself. I have had incredible web development assistance by Xzito, which is a trio of young Colombian developers I met almost 20 years ago when they were starting out. It’s funny but it is not until now when people question me about the enormity of this work that I realize how much we have accomplished. It has been a labor of love.
And what reaction are you getting so far?
The reaction so far has been magnificent. I did know this was needed — I just did not expect the level of excitement that many advocates and friends have demonstrated. Most of the sponsors signed on to the project before they even had a single webpage to look at. I am overwhelmed with gratitude.
My plans are to drive as much traffic to the page as possible in order to support future development. English and other languages are possible and enhancing the content with issues related to finances and even informed consent is in the works. We hope for this site to be dynamic and ever evolving, as the knowledge behind it also evolves. Success for me is defined as the site becoming the preferred portal for health information in Spanish, in Rhode Island. Other communities with large Latin@ populations can also benefit from the information, and the site has the building blocks to allow for local content to be displayed depending on where you are joining from. This will be my legacy.