UA Health Sciences Community Health Talks are Reaching Out to Underserved Populations in Tucson

Feb 23, 2018

Collaborating with Tucson organizations, the Hispanic Center of Excellence at the University of Arizona Health Sciences has launched “Salud en la Comunidad – Health in the Community,” Spanish-language, interactive and community-building health education talks.  

Addressing topics requested by community members, to date nearly 300 participants have attended six sessions featuring UA Health Sciences and other experts providing information to promote health education, health maintenance and illness prevention in Tucson communities plagued with health disparities.

The community health talks are scheduled to take place on an ongoing basis  to facilitate  better intergenerational health outcomes and to combat health disparities caused by the effects of low health literacy and lack of insurance or preventative care. Sessions include collaborations with the Tucson Unified School District Family Resource Centers, the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Consulado de Mexico.

In a session that addressed depression, Francisco Moreno, MD, UA professor of psychiatry and associate vice president for diversity and inclusion at the UA Health Sciences, provided information on depression in the community. Participants expressed appreciation for Dr. Moreno’s ability to connect using culturally sensitive, interactive sessions with concrete examples and tools to help them manage stress in life and death situations and in stressful environments. He has been asked to return for additional sessions.    

On Feb. 26, Dr.  Moreno and Officer Dustin Dial of the Tucson Police Mental Health Support Team will provide specialized training and support for the Mexican Consulate’s Center for Information and Assistance for Mexicans (CIAM) crisis teams. The training will provide tips and advice for dealing with the pressures first responders and crisis teams experience as they consistently face life-and-death situations in their positions. This session bringing together UA Health Sciences, the Consulado de Mexico and the Tucson Police Department is a model for collaboration.  

A model for community engagement emerged during a recent session on infant autism by Sydney Rice, MD, UA College of Medicine – Tucson division chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics. Dr. Rice helped dispel myths in a kind and approachable demeanor while engaging participants in honest conversation about early detection, challenges and information on how to comfort an autistic child. Participants asked many questions and provided each other support and comfort, as well as anecdotal information. They bonded as they shared challenges and successes on their children’s care, creating a support system as the session concluded. Dr. Rice listened to their concerns and requests for more information and now is helping to identify additional autism experts to help provide follow-up visits.  

The next session, currently in the planning stages, Desorden Hiperactivo y Déficit de Atención (ADHD), (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) will inform and provide tools for parents and caregivers. Child and adolescent psychiatrist, Adolfo Martinez Castelo, MD, will conduct the session to help parents understand how to navigate the challenges of ADHD, teach parents to provide appropriate support and intervention, and share information where to find resources. The date for this session has not been determined but will be available, along with information about other upcoming events and programs, at the Hispanic Center of Excellence website   

The demand for additional sessions and the level of engagement of participants provide evidence that the sessions are both meaningful and needed, said Oscar Beita, MD, assistant director of the Hispanic Center of Excellence. Dr. Beita said the sessions were planned to address the lack of information accessible to these communities. 

“Understanding preventable diseases or diseases that can be treated successfully with early detection may be the difference between life and death,” said Dr. Beita, who is the lead for a number of language and cultural proficiency projects within UA Health Sciences that prepare students and professionals to best serve patients from underrepresented populations.  He believes part of addressing health disparities is providing cultural and language skills to health providers. 

The Hispanic Center of Excellence is working to add more sites and recruiting additional presenters interested in helping to combat health disparities.  Please contact Sofia Ramos, MBA, PhD, if you are interested in presenting or hosting a community information session for the Salud en la Comunidad – Health in Community project at  

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