Advancing the Science

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July 13, 2020

A pioneering Hispanic health conference, two years in the making

By Caitlin Doran

It’s less than two weeks before the Jax Saludable (Healthy Jacksonville) Hispanic health conference is scheduled to begin and Elizabeth Pantoja, a clinical research coordinator at Mayo Clinic and one of the event organizers, is putting the finishing touches on the event program.

“There’s always so much to do at the last minute, the last few hurdles,” she says with a tired grin.

The two-day virtual conference, to be held July 25-26, will bring together more than 300 Hispanic leaders from across Jacksonville, Florida, including faith leaders, health care professionals, health care payers, business leaders, educators, and patients and caregivers.  

Dr. White poses in a hallway
Richard White, M.D.

We have been told multiple times by our community partners that this effort is the first of its kind to address in a comprehensive fashion the health challenges many in our Hispanic community are facing.

Richard White, M.D.

“Our vision is to educate, inspire and organize leaders and the broader community to collaborate to improve health care access, processes, and outcomes for Hispanics in Northeast Florida,” says Richard White, M.D., a Mayo Clinic health disparities researcher and community internal medicine physician, who is leading the development of the Jax Saludable conference.

Included in this vision is a focus on the role of patient-centered outcomes research in achieving more equitable health care, particularly for conditions where the Hispanic community faces the greatest disparities compared to the general population: breast cancer, diabetes, dementia, mental health, and nutrition and exercise.

“We have been told multiple times by our community partners that this effort is the first of its kind to address in a comprehensive fashion the health challenges many in our Hispanic community are facing,” says Dr. White.

A community-academic alliance focused on Hispanic health

Several dozen people pose for a photo..
Jax Summit 2019 workshop attendees

The health conference is the culmination of a two-year research project led by Dr. White, funded by a contract from the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). Its goal is to support “capacity building” for future research. Capacity building involves gaining the interest, trust and buy-in of the community. It also involves learning about the community: its needs and its desires; its trials and challenges as well as its unique strengths and sources of resilience.

Dr. White and his team started their engagement effort in 2018 with the creation of an advisory panel composed of Hispanic community stakeholders tasked to identify the primary drivers of health inequities as opportunities to apply patient centered outcomes research to address these disparities. Next, the advisory panel used what they had learned to develop a training workshop for other community stakeholders.

“Our goal was to empower attendees to develop the skills necessary to recognize health disparities, identify patient-centered outcomes research results relevant to those issues, and apply them to improve the health of the Hispanic patients and caregivers,” says Pantoja.

Workshop attendees gave glowing feedback about their experience. “When we departed, there was one voice, one message and 100% commitment among this group of Hispanic leaders,” said Ed Perez, a community leader and President and CEO of 3 Grains of Rice Missions. “The commitment to improve the health and wellbeing of our Hispanic community is paramount.  I found it to be a highly impactful meeting. ”

The Jax Saludable Hispanic health conference is the third step in the engagement program—an event where advisory panel members and workshop-trained stakeholders will have the opportunity to share what they’ve learned with the larger Jacksonville Hispanic community.

“Jax Saludable will feature a dedicated group of leaders and experts in the fields of breast cancer, diabetes, dementia, mental health, and nutrition and exercise who will lead discussions with members of the Hispanic community around these issues,” says Dr. White.  “And just as importantly, they’ll lead discussions on how we can collaborate to improve the spectrum of health outcomes in these areas.”

“This sort of knowledge and collaboration to address health equity in our community is like a preferred type of viral spread,” jokes Dr. White. “We started out with a simple idea among just a few people, but we spread it to the larger advisory group, and bunch of people have ‘caught’ it at our workshops, and now, at Jax Saludable, we’re hoping to inspire towards action for better health among our whole community.”

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Tags: Center for Health Equity and Community Engagement Research, community engagement, Events, health disparities, News, People, Richard White

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