Sat, 29 Jan 2022

A bilingual and multicultural health center offering affordable health care to uninsured residents in the Charlotte region is now expanding its services to include more Spanish-language nutrition classes.

The Camino Vida program at the Camino Health Center educates participants on food groups, family diets and healthy meal preparation.

According to data from UNC's population center, communities in Mecklenburg County and Wake County make up more than a quarter of the Latino population statewide.

Sharisse Johnson, executive director of the Camino Health Center, said the classes are part of many new additions to the center for 2022 focused on holistic wellness and access to quality health care.

"The main things that we're focusing on are access to care," Johnson explained. "Making sure that people are getting services the way they need to receive services, in a language that they can understand, with a cost that they can afford."

A 2021 study by Camino highlights the challenges many Latino immigrants in the Charlotte region face, with 74% of respondents reporting some level of difficultly paying for medical appointments, and 89% reporting stress related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Camino's expansion efforts are funded in part by a community mini-grant from the American Heart Association and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

Johnson pointed out the center is continually seeking feedback from residents on how to improve services, and pointed to the organization's ongoing North Carolina Latino strength and needs assessment.

"For anybody that's Latino, and they are 18 and over, and they live in North Carolina, we would love if they went to caminohealthcenter.com and complete that assessment," Johnson urged.

Shannon Emmanuel, vice president of health strategy for the American Heart Association in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, said few wellness-education resources are available to low-income communities. She believes Spanish-language nutrition classes are an important component of disease prevention.

"Because we want to educate folks on healthy food groups, how to integrate them into their diet, and provide a setting for this," Emmanuel noted.

She added the pandemic has worsened health outcomes in the Latino community.

"And what we found, particularly in the height of the pandemic, was that the rate of COVID infections were 50% or higher with the Latino population," Emmanuel reported.

The Camino Vida wellness center includes a gym and fitness specialists to help residents manage chronic diseases through self-care, lifestyle changes, and stress reduction.

Source: North Carolina News Service

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