Environmental Factor

November 2011


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Hispanic health leader speaks at NIEHS

By Melissa Kerr
November 2011

Gwen Collman, Ph.D. briefing Delgado

Collman spent time earlier in the day briefing Delgado about DERT funding initiatives. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Jane Delgado, Ph.D. giving her speech

Delgado's dedication to the ideal of health for all was apparent as she spoke with enthusiasm and humor. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Sign language by Kristin Duke

Freelancer Kristin Duke provided sign language interpretation for the talk. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Delgado presented with a poster

Following an NIEHS tradition, her hosts presented Delgado, center, with a copy of the poster announcing her seminar. Birnbaum, left, looked on as NIH Hispanic Employment Program Manager Gerard Roman handed the poster to Delgado. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS observed Hispanic Heritage Month Oct. 12 with a seminar by Jane Delgado, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health(http://www.hispanichealth.org/) Exit NIEHS, titled "State of Hispanic Health: Culture, Science, and the Environment."

Attendees were welcomed by the sounds of a traditional Spanish guitar and were able to take away with them several healthy lifestyle books written by Delgado.

The theme of this year's celebration was “Many Backgrounds, Many Stories ... One American Spirit.” The theme was an important one to consider, according to Richard Woychik, Ph.D., NIEHS deputy director. “Today, more than ever, Hispanic men, women, and children are shaping the American experience,” he stressed.

Gwen Collman, Ph.D., director of the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training (DERT), introduced Delgado by saying, “Innovation and action have marked her career.” Delgado has written several articles that have appeared in The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, among others. In 2008, she was recognized by WebMD as one of four “Health Heroes” for her work and advocacy on environmental issues.

Delgado stresses health for all

“Science is at the heart of everything we do, and the community voices give science life and legs,” Delgado said, when discussing the programs and policies of the Alliance. While the Alliance focuses on health of Hispanic communities, Delgado stresses that scientists and policy makers can use the information to work toward a more inclusive view and secure health for all.

Delgado spoke on differences in culture and how a more inclusive view in health care could be carried over into most aspects of society. She spoke on the differences in perception of language and promoted the idea of a person being multilingual. According to Delgado, a person who speaks English and Spanish would be able to communicate with 85 percent of the western hemisphere and take the initial step toward understanding an alternate culture. “We want to celebrate our differences. It adds richness to our lives,” Delgado said.

Scientific expectations

Delgado reviewed several health-related studies and discussed the differences between expectations and reality. The numbers that resulted from recent studies on heart disease and life expectancy show that despite higher rates of obesity and diabetes in the Hispanic population, these people generally live longer and have fewer deaths from heart disease. Delgado warned that scientists should look at the figures objectively, before making decisions. “Our programs should be driven by data, not our expectations of what the data should be,” she urged.

Research has also shown that the incidence of cancer in the Hispanic population is significantly lower than the non-Hispanic white population. Delgado stressed that understanding these statistics can help realize the goal of quality health care for all.

NIEHS/NTP Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., closed the presentation by observing, “We need more people like [Delgado] to serve as a role model in helping us break down barriers for equal opportunity.”

Attendees then joined other NIEHS employees for a reception featuring traditional Spanish music and refreshments.

(Melissa Kerr studies chemistry at North Carolina Central University. She is currently an intern in the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)

Traditional Hispanic food at the NIEHS Cafeteria

Afterwards, traditional Hispanic fare drew employees to the NIEHS cafeteria. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

right to left, Musicians Julius Carrasco and Mike Curren

Strolling guitarist Julius Carrasco, right, who had greeted people before the talk, joined percussionist Mike Curren to provide music for the reception. During the performance, the percussionist switched between congas and vibraphone. Both musicians live in nearby Durham, N.C. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

A warm reception at NIEHS

Prior to her departure from NIEHS, Delgado met with Woychik, NIEHS Education Outreach Specialist Ericka Reid, Ph.D., and NIH Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management Institutes and Services Division Deputy Director Renee King to encourage the participation of Alliance members and affiliates in NIEHS training programs and to explore outreach opportunities in environmental health education.

NIEHS Diversity Council volunteers Brad Collins, Cynthia Radford, Eli Ney, and Veronica Godfrey Robinson greeted attendees and coordinated the reception following the seminar. NIEHS Diversity Council members also complemented the Sep 15-Oct 15 Hispanic heritage month with education materials featuring famous Hispanic Americans.



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