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Group works to bridge gap between Latino community and COVID-19 information

Latino Education Working Group streamlines development and sharing of Spanish-language COVID resources.

Health poster in Spanish Posters like this one were developed and shared by the work group.

Understanding ever-changing health information during a pandemic is tough enough in your native language. But trying to understand this critical information in a foreign tongue can be especially overwhelming.

Misinformation, translation errors and culturally irrelevant materials can all contribute to a breakdown in understanding. A core group of organizations throughout the Richmond area is aiming to change this.

Enter the Latino Education Outreach Working Group

Recognizing the immediate need to provide COVID-19 educational materials to the Spanish-speaking communities, VCU Health partnered with community organizations to form the Latino Education Outreach Working Group in May 2020.

“The purpose of the working group is to ensure that the Latino community has accurate, timely and culturally appropriate materials about COVID-19 so that community members can make informed decisions for themselves and their families,” said Sheryl Garland, chief of health impact at VCU Health and executive director of VCU’s Office of Health Equity.

The group includes more than 10 organizations that are working to provide COVID-19 information and resources to the Latino community.  Partners include: VCU, VCU Health, Daily Planet, Richmond City and Henrico County Health Districts, Richmond City Office of Immigrant and Refugee Engagement (formerly known as the Office of Multicultural Affairs), Henrico County Public Relations, Chesterfield County Health Department, Capital Area Health Network, CrossOver Healthcare Ministry, Health Brigade, Virginia Latino Advisory Board, La Casa de la Salud, Bon Secours Mercy Health and Sacred Heart Center.

“There are a lot of organizations who were already doing this work,“ said Cecilia Barbosa, chair of the health committee for the Virginia Latino Advisory Board. “But there was a need for us to come together, organize our efforts, so that we can extend our scope and be more efficient and effective in our outreach.”

Numerous communication channels available

For the past year and a half, the group has developed a variety of COVID-19 educational resources in both Spanish and English so community organizations could share the evidence-based content with their communities at in-person events and on their digital platforms.

The group’s work ranged from “Activities during COVID-19 – know your risk level” to vaccine video diaries of Spanish-speaking team members.

More recently, the group has focused on combatting misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine by producing a series of COVID-19 vaccination posters for bodegas and other markets.

What’s next for the group?

“The work group continues to look for innovative ways to reach the community,” Barbosa said. “This includes reaching faith leaders in the Latino community — modeled after Massey Cancer Center’s Facts and Faith Fridays, which is geared specifically towards the African-American community.”

“We are excited to see community organizations taking the lead with this initiative and the opportunity to reach more members of the Latino community.”

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