A recent study conducted by UC Davis discovered alarming differences in the causes of dementia among people of different ethnicities. Studying donated brain tissue from 423 individuals who had died after a dementia diagnosis, researchers discovered that Latinos were more likely to also have heart and blood-related issues than other ethnicities.1 These findings have led health professionals to the startling realization that if you are Latino and suffer from hypertension or diabetes, you’re at higher risk for dementia.2
As physicians across the country struggle to tackle this, it is crucial that more Latino households adopt heart-healthy habits.
Latinos are the second fastest growing ethnic group in the US.3 It is scary to think about how more than 50% are expected to develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime4 and the implications that has on dementia diagnoses. When it comes to addressing chronic diseases related to heart health, like diabetes, Latinos often face many challenges:
Health resources are also often miles away with no connections to public transportation. For the families that can access resources, they face the challenge of finding a provider they connect with culturally and linguistically in a health care system where only 5% of physicians identify as Latino.5
Community Health Workers are especially effective at working with hard to reach populations that may have limited access to health resources because they usually come from the community they serve. They have knowledge of the community norms which allows them to reach places other health professionals cannot.
Community Health Workers help communities better understand health information by providing it in their language and giving examples that are relevant to the community culture. And when it comes to heart health, CHWs know how to promote healthy eating habits and exercise activities that families can adopt to fit their lifestyle.
Community Health Worker programs are one of the best ways to help Latinos adopt heart-healthy habits to reduce their risk of diseases like dementia. Here are some more ways they can help:
We’ve used our experience with Community Health Worker programs to develop Community Health Workers & Hypertension and Heart Health Interventions: A Resource for Program Managers and Administrators. It includes approaches that have been successful, a list of external resources and additional information that will be useful to organizations and administrators looking to start or improve a CHW-led hypertension and heart health intervention program.
If your organization is interested in expanding a current program to address heart health or needs more individualized support with starting a CHW-led program, be sure to peruse MHP Salud’s training and consulting services.