AARP Michigan to provide multicultural health forum for underserved communities

Weeks after the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, the four-person staff at the Latin American Wellness Center for Social and Economic Development in Detroit decided to return to work. They haven’t taken another day off for over a year. Their clients, residents of an older Latin American community in a low-income part of town, needed help with basics like getting food safely and translating COVID-19 notices. in Spanish.

“The pandemic has put even more light on the many shortcomings in our systems,” said Guadalupe Lara, a social worker who was director of the center during the public health crisis.

She and her colleagues have helped isolated residents get their prescriptions filled, talk to healthcare professionals, read nutrition labels, and potentially get vaccinated.

“To keep people healthy, you need to provide content that is culturally consistent,” says Lara.

That’s the idea behind the AARP Michigan Multicultural Health Forum, a one-day information blitz, scheduled for late spring / early summer, at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center, in East Lansing. Participants will hear from public health experts skilled in reaching underserved communities, from older LGBTQ adults and people with disabilities to those with language barriers. The forum will include medical exams, an “Ask the Doctor” session and information about community resources. The sessions will be translated simultaneously into Spanish and Chinese.

“All participants will go home with a toolkit containing resources,” says Paula Cunningham, State Director of AARP Michigan.

Overcome the obstacles

The forum was in part inspired by the 2020 “Disrupt Disparities 2.0” study that AARP Michigan commissioned from the research firm Public Sector Consultants (PSC). The report notes that shortcomings in areas that AARP continually discusses with elected officials, such as uneven high-speed internet access, scarcity of public transport and low salaries for caregivers, have contributed to exacerbating the difficulties. linked to COVID-19 for older residents, people of color and people with low incomes. -income households.

In some cases, existing resources are untapped. For example, the report points out that in 2017, more than 270,000 Michigan seniors who qualified for the Federal Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) did not apply for the benefit, forgoing an estimated assistance. $ 335 million per year.

Food insecurity contributes to poorer health care outcomes, notes Justin Fast of PSC. According to the report, low-income seniors who participate in SNAP are 23% less likely to need nursing home care and 46% less likely to be hospitalized.

Such information can help overcome cultural resistance to food aid, says Fast. “For many seniors, accepting SNAP remains a stigma, but it’s something they’ve already paid for with their tax dollars. “

People with disabilities also face barriers to health care and nutrition, such as lack of transportation, which can be overlooked by public health efforts, according to
Alice Frame, program coordinator at the state Department of Health and Human Services.

“My goal for this forum is to make sure accessibility is considered,” says Frame.

For more information, visit Events at

Melissa Preddy is a writer living in Plymouth, Michigan.

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