October 1, 2022
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Health care nonprofit aims to combat misinformation among South County Latinos

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How are South County Latinos, particularly the immigrant community, receiving information about issues impacting them? From whom? Would they prefer other methods?

The Institute for Public Strategies, a San Diego public health nonprofit, is looking for answers to these questions and others to help them create what they’re calling a “bilingual reporting lab.”

“This lab will be a source of valid, reputable information for Latinos in the community,” said Meredith Gibson, a prevention specialist with the nonprofit.

The goal is to build trust in public health guidelines and medical professionals.

“What we found when we were doing our initial research is that there is a profound lack of trust in formal government and health institutions. This barrier prevents many Latinos from seeking medical and behavioral health services,” said Breny Acetuino, program manager for the effort dubbed Partnerships 4 Success.

Many are reluctant to seek medical treatments, such as vaccinations, or speak with doctors out of fear their information will be divulged to authorities, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or issues related to shame and family privacy. A lot of distrust was seen during the COVID-19 pandemic as it related to tests and vaccines, Gibson said.

In South County, where Latinos make up 61 percent of the region’s 309,000 population, Latinos were disproportionally affected by the pandemic.

A September 2021 Nielsen report showed that Latinos rely heavily on social media and messaging platforms due to their unique role in connecting people to family and friends both in the U.S. and abroad.

However, the study said “the outsized use of this technology also makes these apps prime for spreading misinformation, particularly among Latino communities. Much of the content, both user-generated and shared, is in Spanish, Spanglish, or colloquial Spanish, challenging conventional fact-checking and content moderation procedures to keep up.”

Many Latinos in South County will only go to a doctor when a condition is too advanced or too expensive to treat, which could have been detected if they received annual health screenings, Acetuino said.

To find out more about the community’s needs, Partnerships 4 Success is seeking South County and Tijuana residents to fill out a survey in English or Spanish to help the nonprofit develop the reporting lab. Participants will be asked to name issues they prioritize the most, such as health, housing or education, how difficult it is for them to find information about those topics, where they usually access information and in what language.

Once feedback is selected, the nonprofit will develop the reporting lab, which could be in the form of a website, partnerships with news agencies or sending text messages to people with information and resources.

The final product has not yet been determined, but Gibson said the organization is eyeing a model akin to Oakland’s El Tímpano – Spanish for “eardrum”— which provides information about resources to Latino and Mayan immigrants via a website but primarily via texts.

Partnerships 4 Success plans to launch the bilingual reporting lab in the spring of 2023. To access the survey, visit here.





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