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Public Health Change is Difficult. Even as many Latinos use meat markets for health care and advice.

I know change is difficult. I experienced that while preparing for my TEDx talk on Saturday. The changes that organizers wanted in my speaking style challenged me. But I was able to include their best pointers into my speech yet never giving up on the authentic Julissa and her passion.

So I understand how difficult it is for health departments to add proven change into their protocols. It’s challenging to incorporate cultural validation combined with authentic engagement into health care. Like planning childhood vaccination clinics that bring down barriers by including Superheroes, pinatas, Bolos (candy bags) for kids, and authentic engagement with parents. As I emphasized in my TEDx talk, while it’s challenging, it’s also necessary to include those revisions into clinic protocols. Protocols that neglect to build trust in the mistrustful Latino community even though they may work for the white community.

Why is it that many Latinos utilize meat markets for medical care and advice? It’s because meat markets include authentic community engagement and cultural validation as part of the services they provide. Meat markets are places where Latinos can feel accepted, wanted, appreciated, included. Meat markets provide the whole package that most health clinics continue to miss. The meat market medical advice may not be the best, but at least we can get tacos I told the audience at the Colorado Pharmacists Society annual meeting a few weeks ago! The audience laughed but they got it too. It’s not easy, yet the challenge remains: health providers must also reach out to their Latino patients so that that acceptance, appreciation and inclusion can be felt. When that happens tacos are not missed! Providing authentic community engagement/fun in our medical and pharmacy clinics while still following clinical regulations and standard protocols I know is challenging but certainly not mutually exclusive when we’re facing a health equity crisis!

  • With my partner working on strategies of community engagement, Dr. Josh Williams, we participated in an online Denver Health Pediatric Grand Rounds last week. We focused on implementing community engaged relationships that promote health equity.  During the Q&A that followed our discussion, one of the participants asked shouldn’t we compensate Latinos who volunteer time through health surveys, focus groups, community health meetings? Our answer: what Latinos most seek is inclusion and respect. Make Latinos true partners in care not just vanilla patients, recognizing their culture respectfully. It dawned on me then that Josh and I indeed see our worlds through different lenses, white and brown, yet we’ve managed to come together to form a tint of brown in our partnership. Like the paint world, we’ve found that brown (me) with a crisp white (him) gives a clean contrast that works well in surroundings, varying the shades of brown to keep it interesting in our work! I love working with Josh!
  • I continue to promote training in cultural validation to break down barriers in health access. I’m exploring this training in English and Spanish now with the Grand County Health Department along with One School, One Vaccine at a Time programs and Vaccine Sundays.
  • A big spinoff of speaking engagements this year in other states, such as California, Kansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana has been to bring health advocates together as partners addressing the barriers that leave Latinos behind in health access. You’ll be hearing about Latinos Unidos for Vaccines in the future!

I was the first TEDx speaker that afternoon. 

Ms. Helena Bowen, Director of Speaker Research & Coaching TEDxMileHigh after my talk:

“I’m so incredibly thankful for all of your hard work but even more – all the fun and friendliness you brought to the process. Your energy put all the speakers at ease and made everyone enjoy themselves even more. I’ll keep my eyes out for speaking opportunities in Latin America. You’re destined for big things, mija.”