Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Washington Post has an interesting story on how one doctor has started a breast cancer education and prevention program for Latino immigrants.

The doctor is Elmer Huerta, who happens to be the current president of the American Cancer Society. The program is the Cancer Preventorium, a one-of-a-kind clinic that is part of the cancer institute at Washington Hospital Center. It is aimed at drawing in low-income Latino women, not for treatment but for prevention.

He's done some excellent outreach to the Hispanic community that should be a model for SBS education:

Huerta, the president this year of the American Cancer Society, used to be an oncologist in his native Peru. But he changed his focus in the late 1980s after seeing women with cancerous tumors bulging out of their breasts. "They didn't know anything about health," he said, "because they were ashamed to show anyone what was wrong and because they thought the absence of pain is the absence of anything wrong."

Many of these patients, however, knew the latest celebrity gossip, the subplots of every TV soap opera and the scores of every big soccer match. If radio and television were that powerful, Huerta recalls thinking, "would it be possible to sell health to the public through the media?"

In 1986, he began producing and then starring in a health education TV show in Lima; he discontinued the show in 1987 when he moved to the United States to complete a fellowship at the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center. He began a medical residency program in Baltimore and started recording five-minute health-care spots on a Spanish-language radio station in Laurel. In 1994, the same year the Cancer Preventorium opened, Huerta created a live weekly television program on health promotion and disease prevention.

Today, Huerta's radio spots, called "Cuidando Su Salud" ("Taking Care of Your Health"), air daily on more than 120 stations in the United States and more than 350 in Latin America. His television program, "Hablemos de Salud" ("Let's Talk About Health"), is distributed nationally.

Three months ago, Huerta's local call-in program expanded to two hours after being syndicated nationally. Now called "Cita Con el Doctor" ("Appointment With the Doctor"), it reaches Latinos in 14 states five days a week.

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