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Latinos on the U.S.-Mexico border struggle with debilitating illnesses for years, but often lack proper healthcare because of socioeconomic, accessibility, or other inequalities.
Dr. Amelie Ramirez grew up seeing these disparities in South Texas. She was driving to pursue a public health education and tirelessly toil to establish projects that assist the underprivileged.
Perhaps Ramirez’s most innovative project, Salud America! has worked since 2007 to create a wide-reaching library of resources and actions, which greatly impact the personal and public health mindset of advocates, schools, and policymakers.
“The health inequities Latinos face was then, and continues to be, something to confront,” said Ramirez, who directs Salud America! at the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at UT Health San Antonio. “Salud America! and the IHPR are on the front lines of that conversation. The research, articles, and tools produced and published by our organization affect countless lives.”
Now in its 12th year, Salud America! is participating in the one-day Big Give event, which encourages people to give back financially by donating to worthwhile causes, for the first time.
History of Helping
Salud America! was established in 2007 through funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The organization began its health equity campaign through 20 two-year research projects centered around childhood obesity and public health communication.
Researchers found a need for clear health-information channels Latinos could access, use, and learn how to take action in inequity issues.
“The question was: ‘How can we turn a corner concerning Latino health?’” said Rosalie Aguilar, project coordinator for Salud America! at UT Health SA. “It became clear, through numerous studies, that tailoring health research and news for Latinos through clear messaging was a way for us to do that.”
Salud America! continued to increase research and communications efforts in 2012 through research reviews, issue briefs, informational videos, and a large body of relevant articles.
In 2012, they established six focus topics that had potential for significant impact:
- Active play
- Active spaces
- Better food in neighborhoods
- Healthier marketing
- Sugary drinks
- Healthier school snacks
As the organization continued to influence lives and policy, it expanded its mission from focusing on childhood obesity to holistic health equity for the entire Latino community. This expansion in 2015 was a natural step for Salud America!, according to Aguilar.
“The work we were accomplishing in childhood obesity meant we could be making greater positive health strides for everyone, which only helps children and families,” Aguilar said. “By including all Latinos, Salud America! informs parents on how to keep themselves safe, which allows them to be in their kid’s lives longer; or we help young adults form better health habits at an early age, which they will eventually teach their children.”
Today, Salud America! has three overarching themes that cover a variety of topics ranging from public transportation, housing, discrimination, and chemical exposure:
All these initiatives reach Latinos through messaging designed to reach and impact Latinos —content curation.
Impacts through Information
The Internet boom provided people from all backgrounds access to immense amounts of information and resources that could better their lives.
Yet, it also gave way to allowing a seemingly endless stream of disinformation.
Content curation is the best way to speak to a targeted audience directly, Salud America!’s Communications Manager Cliff Despres said.
“Hundreds of thousands of people are creating content and publishing on the Internet every day,” Despres said. “It can become an undertaking to stay informed of the health trends and new research that concerns any specific group, especially those that face disparities like Latinos. Salud America! provides an alternative: Culturally relevant, engaging, and specific content that inspires community change.”
The content curation model tackles informing its audience through a multifaceted method:
- Collect: Curators research and review numerous news and research articles to discover trends in the health community that impact Latinos.
- Craft: Taking the relevant information, curators create content that informs of and provides a call to action in health concerns affecting the Latino community.
- Connect: Salud America! then publishes and promotes that content to a massive online network through its website, email, and social media accounts.
This method is tried, tested, and backed by bodies of research, according to Despres.
“Our content, action packs, Tweetchats, and public comment campaigns are able to reach the people who need it most,” Despres said. “We’ve seen schools change curriculum, governments pass legislation, and families improve their lives through Salud America!’s messaging.”
The organization not only impacts people, but they also serve as a recognized changemaker in the public health community.
Achievements and Accomplishments
Dr. Ramirez and Salud America!’s efforts have been acknowledged through awards, partnerships, and critical success.
In recent years, the organization was named “Best Health Advocate Reaching Latino(a)s Through Social Media” by Latinos in Social Media and won three Digital Health Awards from the Health Information Resource Center.
The group has also played a part in influencing legislators in Washington. Last year, Salud America! created content and a public comment campaign concerning menu food labeling. The initiative reached over 6 million people online and encouraged hundreds of citizens to make their voice heard.
Other organizations, who see Salud America!‘s reach and influence, regularly partner to accomplish various projects, such as its 2017 media partnership with Univision.
The years of impact and success, however, haven’t slowed Salud America!’s work, goals, or mission, according to Dr. Ramirez.
“What still motivates me is the daily challenge of creating unique interventions and digital communications that positively influence health behaviors, build people’s capacity for health advocacy, and spur community-wide policy, systems, and environmental changes that have helped reduce disease and improve the lives of Latinos across the nation,” Dr. Ramirez told Boston University.
On March 28, 2019, Salud America! is participating in the one-day philanthropy event, The Big Give in San Antonio.
The critical research and content created would only be bolstered by public support Dr. Ramirez said, who encourages those who can to give back.