Written by Cindy Gil
Over 90 Latino community members, university stakeholders, and organizational partners gathered for the second Latinx Community-University Research Coalition conference on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. The conference provided opportunities for discussing, networking, collaborating and advancing future research, programming and advocacy on the well-being of Latino populations across Indiana.
To start the day, Miryam Espinosa-Dulanto, Ph.D., a qualitative researcher from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, shared a series of poems on the intersectionality of power and privilege. Among them she shared Maria-sin apellido’s “Getting Lost in Life/Death Disruptions: Maria-sin apellido,” which illustrates how legal immigration status shapes one’s opportunities and restricts basic human rights with little if any legal protection. Maria’s story describes a life of discrimination and abuse which lead to fatal consequences. In sharing such stories, Miryam illustrated the connections between gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic and immigration status. Her work serves as a form of resistance against all forms of dehumanization.
Presentation on Latinx Wellbeing
Tess Weathers, MPH, a research associate with the Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI presented on the fundamental causes of Latinx wellbeing, which were identified as money, power, beneficial social connections, prestige, and knowledge.
“These causes are the most upstream of all determinants of health and wellbeing,” she said. Additionally, “one’s degree of access to these resources is tightly linked with their opportunity to be well – or to minimize risk and consequences of illness, should it come their way.”
Among the findings shared during the presentation was that both education and wealth are tightly linked to health. When looking at the relationship between education and health, the rate of bad health falls at each level of increased education, so that Latinos who did not complete high school experience bad health four times as much as those with college degrees. For non‐Latinos, the rate of poor health among the least educated is even higher. In terms of money, with every increase in income level, the percentage in good or better health rises. The opposite is true, of course, which is that as incomes fall, the percentage experiencing fair or poor health rises. Those making less than $15,000 annually report being in bad health at a rate that is five times that of college grads.
Social isolation also impacts Latinx wellbeing. It was noted that while social connectedness is a cultural strength among Latinos, the strains of immigration and acculturation appear to weaken these connections over time.
“On today’s agenda, there are issues affecting Latinx wellbeing all along the bank of the river, as far upstream as education, and as far downstream as diabetes,” said Weathers. “There’s important work to do all along the river, but I encourage us all to take our work upstream whenever possible to build a healthy and thriving Latino community in Indiana.”
Panel Discussions and Breakout Sessions
Other topics covered during the day included funding opportunities for community engaged research, employment and work quality, aging/older adults, education, mental health, diabetes and physical health, the political climate, immigration/migration, art & community, and business development.
Jean Marie Place, Ph.D. and Assistant Professor in Department of Nutrition and Health Science with Ball State University talked about her work as a maternal and child health researcher whose work centers on exploring maternal and child health issues in low-resource contexts. Her research includes Mexico, Guatemala, and immigrant populations in the United States and how the use of metaphors can help in the education and empowerment of communities to achieve healthier outcomes, such as increasing infant gestation.
Mariana Lopez-Owens, MPA, represented the Vida Sana Study under the direction of the principle investigator, Gerardo Maupome, Ph.D. and Associate Dean of Research at IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI. The Vida Sana study focuses on adults of Mexican origin who recently arrived in Central Indiana. This cohort will be interviewed four times over a two-year period to map the co-evolution of their personal network. Emotional well-being, oral health variables, and social-demographic variables, in combination with network data, will be used to identify factors that protect or undermine dental care and oral health outcomes.
Throughout the event, participants were invited to participate in a silent auction to raise funds for the IUPUI summer program, Your Life. Your Story (YLYS): Latino Youth Summit. The program is a week-long camp for immigrant Latino youth to help them build resiliency. For more information on the camp, contact Silvia Bigatti, Ph.D. from IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The conference also included the opportunity to discuss concerns about immigration laws, policy and the experience of Latino communities as legislative changes continue to unfold in America. The discussion was facilitated by Khaula Murtadha, Ph.D. from IUPUI Office of Community Engagement and the panelists included Miryam Espinosa Dulanto, PH.D., Angela Adams, JD and Owner/Managing Attorney at Adams Immigration Law LLC, and Elise Shrock, B.A.
The coalition hopes that both the community and universities continue to collaborate in an effort to address root issues faced by Latinos in Indiana. The conference demonstrated that strong progress has taken place and will continue to develop and strengthen collaborative research, programs and other initiatives between universities, the Latino community, and the organizations and groups that serve these communities.