In Arizona and California, there is a fresh and focused Foundation that has been developed and is gaining momentum to care for the health and wellness of Latinas, their families, and community. Welcome The LatinaStrong Foundation!

The LatinaStrong Foundation’s mission is to educate Latinas about health and wellness through diet and exercise, and to promote optimal health through a culturally holistic focus on mind, body, and spirit.

The LatinaStrong Foundation’s goals include:

  1. Emphasize preventive medicine education
  2. Inspire women to be at their best and perform at the highest level
  3. Be the role models for our culture in health and fitness through a supportive network
  4. Promote a new healthy lifestyle for our families and community

The idea for LatinaStrong was developed in 2011 by Dr. Rebeccah Rodriguez from San Diego Sports Medicine and Family Health Center and Petra Fimbres, Director of Arizona Pain’s Latin American Division and Owner of Latin Focus Solutions. After the Hispanic Women’s Corporation Conference in Phoenix, AZ, the two chatted about the conference, grateful for the connections they were making, and started discussing ways they could help improve the health of Latinos nationwide.

“It was a special time of innovative ideas,” Dr. Rodriguez recalls. “We designed many creative programs, had many laughs, and did lots of toasting to helping make our culture healthy.” Since 2011, Dr. Rebeccah Rodriguez and Petra Fimbres have put their ideas into motion, registering the organization as an official non-profit 501c(3) corporation, trademarking LatinaStrong, and speaking at national medical conventions with an interactive fitness session!

The Latino population continues to be the fastest growing minority group in the United States and constitutes at least 30% of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2008). Studies indicate that 74% of Latinas report no leisure-time physical activity and higher prevalence of inactivity compared with Latino men even after age, education and income are adjusted. Latinas engage in significantly less leisure-time physical activity compared with other women and thus, experience higher rates of associated cardiovascular disease risk factors, including hypertension, obesity and diabetes mellitus.

The Foundation’s goal is to promote health and wellness among the Latinas to ultimately prevent chronic conditions. To begin the process of changing behaviors, the organization reaches out to women. Dr. Rodriguez states:

“Research indicates 86% of Hispanic household decisions are made by the woman.”

Despite noted health disparities among Latinas, the majority of intervention programs designed to promote physical activity have reached primarily nonminority, middle-income women and men (Perez, Fleury, & Keller, 2009). LatinaStrong provides culturally relevant resources and a supportive network to promote physical activity and cardiovascular health among Latinas. The non-profit includes a bilingual and bicultural advisory board focused on cultural strategies and best practices for preventative health to effectively reach Latinas community-wide with the potential of reducing cardiovascular risk in this growing population.

Preventative medicine—One main goal of LatinaStrong

Seeing the same doctor regularly is a huge component of health. Family physicians grow to know their patients, understand family stressors and daily lifestyles. But many Latinos may be new to health insurance and understanding it, having recently gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The efforts of LatinaStrong are consistent with the vision of health care reform in transforming our system from a sick care system to one that is focused on prevention and wellness across generations.

“Those living close to the border may visit Mexico for one doctor’s visit or an urgent care issue, and then have a follow-up visit with a U.S. physician,” Dr. Rodriguez states. This situation creates gaps in the healthcare system and decreases continuity of care.

Even for Hispanics who have health insurance and know how it works, many work long hours and may not make the time for doctor visits. Dr. Rodriguez claims, “Culturally, Latinos tend to avoid doctor visits until something is obviously wrong. Talking about illness is often viewed as taboo, especially for recently immigrated Latinos with more traditional or alternative views. People with injury or illness may be more apt to just deal with it than seek medical attention.”

Represent a healthy community

The LatinaStrong Foundation believes that equipping women with basic health knowledge and resources can change behaviors in the community. The issue is critically important, with Hispanics more likely to find health information from media like television (83%) than doctors (71%), according to Pew Research Center.

Decades of research has shown that, culturally, Latinas will not make healthy changes for themselves. As Petra Fimbres notes:

“We have to make changes for something bigger. Where LatinaStrong can contribute is really inspiring the female, the center of the family, to take care of herself as a way to care for others.”

By making healthy food choices that honor cultural traditions, incorporating family exercise, and obtaining regular health care, Latinas will influence family behaviors for generations to come. Dr. Rodriguez hopes that encouraging people to make these decisions will prevent disease and empower Latinas. Latinas will succeed in leadership roles through nationwide efforts to emphasize a healthy mind, body, and spirit.

The LatinaStrong Foundation continues to develop innovative ideas for the future. One upcoming project includes an app featuring health information, ten-minute exercise videos, and nutritious recipes that include culturally relevant foods. The app will also include a section for health maintenance with reminders on what exams are needed for complete wellness (general physical, women’s gynecological exam, mammogram, breast exam, lab work, and bone density).

Dr. Rodriguez notes:

“Our dream is to have the LatinaStrong Foundation create global awareness. We want to make sure that we are promoting education and inspiring individuals to be healthy and active every day. We want to make a difference, provide supportive resources, and empower women to be leaders in living a healthy lifestyle for Latinas, their families, and community!”

Here is how you can get involved:

  • If you are an organization that cares about the health and wellbeing of Latinos and our community, consider making a generous contribution to the LatinaStrong Foundation!
  • If you are a health policy leader, consider supporting system-wide changes that support and promote physical activity where Latinas work and play (i.e. environmental policy changes).
  • If you are a Latina — join the LatinaStrong movement by signing up to volunteer and attend our events.
  • We would love to see how you are promoting the goals of LatinaStrong on social media. Hashtag your healthy photos and stories of success with #LatinaStrong.

What do you think about LatinaStrong’s efforts to encourage healthy choices? Learn more at the LatinaStrong website at http://latinastrong.org/!

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