Salud Latina USF combats misinformation in Spanish

| Academic & Student Affairs, COPH Home Page Feed, Featured News, International Programs, Monday Letter, Our World, Take Note!

Hispanic Heritage Month is Sept. 15 – Oct. 15

USF College of Public Health (COPH) faculty members have come together to provide credible public health messages and combat misinformation in Spanish.  

Salud Latina USF, as the group calls itself, includes the following Spanish-speaking faculty from the COPH:

The group also includes collaborative support from graduate students, research assistants and volunteer students. COPH staff Anna Mayor, Carlos Montoya and James Taylor also assist with communication outreach, messaging and logistical support.

Calvo, the coordinator of the initiative, said that credible information in Spanish is an area that is greatly lacking, especially at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In May 2020, the World Health Organization declared Latin America as the epicenter of the pandemic. An important gap in research and appropriate Spanish-language information existed among Latinx communities worldwide. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, it was evident that public health interventions were lacking appropriate science-based information in a language that the communities understand; this applies to many health issues and social outcomes,” Calvo said. “The Latinx population has been one of the most affected due to the COVID pandemic, both in the U.S. and abroad. The Salud Latina USF initiative is an appropriate forum to understand the reasons for the disparities.”

Salud Latina USF conducts research and educational activities. It has currently held five monthly virtual public discussions allowing Spanish-speaking participants to engage in a live conversation with the public health experts in their language. The conversations are also livestreamed to the USF COPH’s Facebook page and uploaded to the YouTube Salud Latina USF channel.

The first discussion focused on the COVID-19 vaccine, followed by COVID-19 treatment myths, COVID-19 variants, the social impact of COVID on the Latino community, and variants and vaccines.

“The Salud Latina initiative provides a platform to engage the broader Spanish-speaking community about public health topics. While we started with COVID-19, we will expand to other topics,” Martinez-Tyson said. “This initiative has provided a wonderful opportunity to connect with other Hispanic faculty, connect with and mentor Latino students and provide opportunities for collaboration. This is worthwhile and I look forward to seeing how we can grow the initiative and connect with others across campus interested in Hispanic health.”

Salud Latina USF held their first community Zoom webinar in March of 2021 regarding COVID-19 vaccines and plan to continue the series on a variety of other health topics in the future. (Still courtesy of Erik Ruiz)

“It has been such an honor to work with the USF COPH faculty in the Salud Latina Initiative because not only have I been able to engage in work relevant to my own research interests, but I have also been able to learn from experienced academicians who are truly committed to improving the health and well-being of the Latino community here in Tampa, in the U.S. and in Latin America,” Erik Ruiz, a graduate research assistant, said.

In addition to live monthly community webinars, the group also regularly produces science-based social media content in Spanish, including videos on health topics such as proper mask wearing and ways to prevent the spread of COVID. They also actively pursue funding opportunities to support their efforts to help conduct research on social media content analysis, behavioral online surveys, qualitative studies, and to incorporate experiences and mentoring for Latinx students.

Prevención de COVID-19. (Source: YouTube)
An example of some of the social media graphics being shared by Salud Latina USF to combat misinformation. (Photo source: USF COPH Instagram)

“We’re aiming to have a more informed Latin population,” Izurieta said. “Health messages are better accepted if they are in the native tongue.”

Dr. Ricardo Izurieta provides an overview of the COVID-19 virus during Salud Latina USF’s first community Zoom webinar: ¡Hablemos Sobre las Vacunas Contra la Covid-19! (Photo source: YouTube)

“Ethnic minorities have less access to health care. By providing information in their native language, we are helping to close the gap of information, we are helping people to be informed to make the best decisions for themselves,”

“Ethnic minorities have less access to health care. By providing information in their native language, we are helping to close the gap of information, we are helping people to be informed to make the best decisions for themselves,” Reina said. “I hope that we are able to stem and counteract the wave of COVID-19-related misinformation. In the long-term, I hope we are able to address the needs of our communities and to address other health issues beyond COVID-19.”

So far, the Salud Latina USF Initiative has been accepted to present at several academic and education venues, including the annual American Public Health Association’s meeting (APHA 2021), Project ECHO Latin America from the University of New Mexico and others. They are also developing scientific publications and have been awarded COPH support, including being recipients of an internal research award.

Story by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health