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Salud Latina USF provides information about COVID and other health topics to Spanish speakers

The project was formed by USF faculty members to combat COVID-19 misinformation but has expanded to include a range of health topics.

A group of professors from the University of South Florida is working to combat misinformation about COVID-19 and share credible public health information with Spanish-speaking communities.

Salud Latina USF was formed in January and is focusing on providing information about COVID-19 and health-related topics in Spanish through Facebook livestreams and social media posts.

USF College of Public Healthassociate professor Arlene Calvo said faculty decided to join the project in response to the disproportionate impacts that COVID-19 has among the Latino community and concerns around misinformation.

“The concept is that we develop health information in a language that is simple and easy to understand, in the native tongue of people that are our audience and, hopefully, with this science-based information, they'll be able to make the best decisions for their own health,” Calvo said.

Calvo says the livestreams started off with a focus on the coronavirus but have branched out to other health topics

“We meet regularly, and based on the current trends out there, we identify the appropriate topic for the webinars,” she said. “So, for example, if vaccines are a hot topic at the moment, we'll go with vaccines. Right now, we're talking about migration because it is a hot topic in the region and in the U.S. It just depends on what we need to address at the moment."

The group focuses on four main pillars: outreach, education, engagement and research. The monthly webinars are being held virtually due to COVID-19, but Calvo said that might change in the future depending on the state of the pandemic.

“We're trying to get more Latino students into public health, support them, mentor them and guide them through their process so they are involved in these issues,” she said. “The third pillar would be research, where we're trying to understand the main causes behind all of these disparities that include social determinants and structural factors that affect Latino health outcomes.”

Calvo said academic exchange also plays a key role in the project as it allows faculty to network and engage with the community while working on scientific journals.

The livestreams have also focused on domestic violence, economic disparities, cancer, stress, depression and other infectious diseases.

“We started with COVID, because of the disproportionate outcomes, but we plan on looking at all health disparities as they relate to Latino populations,” Calvo said.

Though the conversations are only in Spanish, Calvo said they hope to expand their service in the future to other languages including Portuguese and Creole.

Six faculty formed Salud Latina USF, but Calvo said students are welcome to join and work on the project. She said student volunteers worked on social media content analysis and helped research topics for the webinars.

The first livestream was held in March and focused on the COVID-19 vaccine, dismantling treatment myths and educating people about variants and the social impact of the pandemic on Hispanic communities.

The group has also been expanding its reach beyond the Tampa Bay region, with invitations to present at the annual American Public Health Association’s meeting and Project ECHO Latin America from the University of New Mexico.

As Salud Latina works to expand its audience and cover a wide range of health-related topics, Calvo said the team is looking forward to engaging with new community partners and working toward educating the region on important topics affecting their daily lives.

“We welcome any partners and collaborations [and] we would like to grow the initiative more,” Calvo said. “The idea, again, is to reach the community's Spanish-speaking communities, engage more students and faculty, and also work on research and academic endeavors together.”

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