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Maria Silva is a registered dietitian and educator in St. Vincent de Paul’s bilingual Family Wellness Program in Phoenix (44% Latino).
The program shares its services online on its website, and at local health fairs.
But Silva noticed many local people had no Internet access or did not know about the health fairs. They missed opportunities to benefit from the program and free services offered.
What other way could Silva promote program awareness and offer nutritional advice, healthy recipes, and healthy eating tips?
She found the answer in an old-school magazine.
The Program and the Magazine
The Family Wellness Program began in 1999.
It aims to boost the health of local Latino families, from a provision of medical and dental care to healthy lifestyle services for healthy eating, making positive food choices, increasing physical activity, and improving self-esteem.
Services are culturally sensitive and services are offered in Spanish and English.
Marco Porras of Segunda Mano, a popular local magazine, attended one of the program’s health fairs and was struck by the lack of local families in attendance—and the resulting underutilization of health services.
Silva and Porras, who were friends, wanted to find a new way to spread the word about local health information and services beyond “word of mouth” or “los comadres.”
“We felt that there were so many health fairs out there that have so many great resources for the community and the community just did not know about them, so they would not attend,” Porras said.
Could they utilize Segunda Mano magazine, which at the time lacked strong nutritional information?
A Growing Connection
Silva invited Porras to learn more about the Family Wellness Program.
Porras, who already had been thinking about starting a health section for his popular local magazine, Segunda Mano, suggested Silva work with them by writing a weekly health article segment for Segunda Mano.
“At the time we were looking to engage our readers and come up with a unique segment within our publication that was specific to health, and what we wanted to do was create a segment that was validated by health experts,” said Porras.
Such a segment could help “debunk” a lot of Latino health myths, too.
“It’s really popular, like the home remedies and all these things that get carried down by your grandma, so we thought that it’d be a fun way to let the community know what’s true, what’s not, and be a resource that people could count on,” Porras said.
Silva agreed to explore the partnership.
She also thought it would help connect people Family Wellness Program services, and boost recruitment for St. Vincent de Paul’s “Every Little Steps Counts” program.
The “Every Little Step Counts” program, begun in 2005, aims to prevent chronic diseases among Latinos ages 8-16. The program was being evaluated by Arizona State University researcher Dr. Gabriel Schaibi.
“So, at that point, we were recruiting Latino youth for that study to validate the program, to show that it makes a difference and it’s impactful,” Silva said.
Porras and Silva eventually decided to test producing a health segment for six months starting in August 2014.
“We decided that it would be a good opportunity to do a test run and see what kind of content they could come up with, and also measure what was the response from the community in regards to this segment,” Porras said.
Silva and her team began developing topics and drafting articles.
They were challenged to make sure the articles met current nutritional and health information.
“It was definitely a learning curve for both of us,” Silva said. “It was finding that balance, between something that is trending, and that is good for the public but also scientific-based to ensure that our communities are getting the best information available.”
A New Health Section
They decided to call the new health segment of Segunda Mano “Cuerpo Sano, Vida Sana” [Healthy Body, Healthy Life].
While drafting segment topics, Silva and the other nutrition and health educators of the Family Wellness Program continued to work with the community.
They would ask what they might be interested in reading about or what topic’s they have questions on related to health and nutrition.
With feedback in hand, they decided to use the segment to promote nutritional advice and tips to give the community easy-to-read information about healthy living. The articles would deliver information that some people might not feel comfortable asking a doctor—or they might not have access to a doctor to get their questions answered, Porras said.
They agreed that all nutritional topics would get reviewed by a dietitian to make sure everything is scientifically based and follows what they teach at their clinic, Silva said.
It would also promote local health fairs and other opportunities and services of the Family Wellness Program and other services at St. Vincent de Paul, such as medical nutrition therapy, diabetes self-management education, and the “Every Little Step Counts” program.
“The whole team is really passionate about what they do, especially when it comes to preventing diabetes within the Latino community,” Porras said.
In August 2014, Segunda Mano published the first segment of “Cuerpo Sano, Vida Sana” [Healthy Body, Healthy Life], which was celebrated by Silva and the rest of the team at the Family Wellness Program.
The magazine is distributed weekly to 50,000 readers, reaching many Latinos in the area.
“It actually became one of the most popular segments within the first three months that we launched,” Porras said.
Magazine Driving Program Participation
The new segments are helping drive clients to Family Wellness Program services.
“We do surveys online or when we would go out to different events we would ask people what they liked about the magazine and the content and they would always bring up the health segment,” Porras said.
Segunda Mano featured the health segment on a billboard in 2015 for six months to promote an upcoming health fair.
The magazine also makes sure readers online get access to the segment by putting it on the magazine’s blog and Facebook page.
Porras estimated that readership is about 470,000 a month including social media.
Silva and other registered dietitians at the Family Wellness Program meet to discuss topics and take turns writing articles.
They also accept user feedback.
“We are constantly involved in the community so we try to follow those trends, we try to stay as current as we can,” Silva said.
The magazine reaches many low-income individuals in the area that may not have access to the Internet. Silva explained that many people would call the recruitment ad for the “Every Little Step Counts,” but if they didn’t qualify for that study, they would always still try to connect them with other services that they may qualify for or need.
“We really try to serve our community in every way [we] can,” Silva said. “We have the ’Every Little Step Counts’ program for children, but we also have our diabetes program, we have diabetes prevention for adults… We have a lot of programs here that people can benefit from that we try to offer to them whenever they call.”
Although recruitment for the Every Little Step Counts has ended, Porras and the staff of the Family Wellness Program plan to continue the partnership, writing health segment articles on what the audience wants and needs to read and continually promoting articles on social media.
The partnership continues to grow between Segunda Mano and the Family Wellness Program.
“It’s like a mutual benefit, said Porras.“They get to put their organization out there towards the community and from our end we gain readership as well.”
Silva explained that she loves writing the articles, as she can expand healthy and nutritious information to more than the clients she sees on a weekly basis.
“To be able to have these scientifically based resources available to the community that are scientifically based, it makes it feel like we’re doing a great thing, by reaching many more people than just those in the clinic,” she said.
By The Numbers
This success story was produced by Salud America! with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The stories are intended for educational and informative purposes. References to specific policymakers, individuals, schools, policies, or companies have been included solely to advance these purposes and do not constitute an endorsement, sponsorship, or recommendation. Stories are based on and told by real community members and are the opinions and views of the individuals whose stories are told. Organization and activities described were not supported by Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and do not necessarily represent the views of Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.