The Hispanic Advisory Council of Cancer Treatment Centers of America Works to Change Latino Health Habits
Story By: Alex Gutierrez
IN OCTOBER, THE HISPANIC ADVISORY COUNCIL OF CANCER TREATMENT CENTERS OF AMERICA® (CTCA) UNVEILED A PUBLIC EDUCATION CAMPAIGN —¡NO ESPERES! — TO CHANGE LATINO BEHAVIORS AROUND PREVENTATIVE HEALTHCARE.
THE ¡NO ESPERES! campaign originated with the CTCA® Hispanic Advisory Council (HAC) as a response to the harsh realities of cancer in the Hispanic community. According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 3 Hispanic men and 1 in 3 Hispanic women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes. Cancer is also recognized as the leading cause of death among Hispanics.
Accomplished medical professional and chairperson of the HAC, Dr. Elena Rios, is leading the ¡No Esperes! movement. Rios has been at the forefront of Latino health policy and advocacy since the first Clinton Administration, in which she served as an advisor on women’s and minority health.
Currently president and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA), an organization dedicated to empowering Hispanic physicians to lead efforts that improve the health of Hispanic and other underserved populations, Rios draws upon decades of experience to help guide the ¡No Esperes! campaign. With it, she hopes to address what she considers a silent crisis: overly passive Latino attitudes and practices toward cancer screening, preventative healthcare and disease in general.
“We want this campaign to gain traction and start a national movement that changes the way our community thinks about prevention and early detection,” says Rios.
“Especially among the older generation, there is a tendency to think fatalistically about cancer— that it is in God’s hands, or that it is a death sentence. We need family and community models to help Latinos approach the subject more constructively and take responsibility for their health.”
Rios believes that the campaign must address certain cultural barriers that keep many Latinos from getting regular screenings. The reward of detecting cancer early through these screenings can be life-saving, opening up a wider range of treatment options and increasing the chance of improving outcomes.
“In our community, there’s a stigma around cancer; people don’t want to talk about it,” she says. “There is also a reticence, among older males especially, to go to the doctor. Sometimes this comes from a sense of machismo that needs to be addressed with education.”
Changing deep-rooted practices and improving health outcomes in the Latino community, she says, will require a multi-faceted approach on a range of issues. “The
¡No Esperes! public service campaign is a major step in the right direction,” says Rios. She hopes that Hispanic business and media outlets will get behind the campaign to raise awareness among Latinos not just about early detection and checkups, but also about lifestyle, diet and high-risk behaviors.
The ¡No Esperes! Campaign
The ¡No Esperes! movement is already garnering support from businesses and media across the country, but Rios hopes it will see even more attention in the months ahead. Featuring television, digital, print and social media renditions, the campaign delivers an early cancer detection message of “No Esperes,” or “Don’t Wait.” Organizations that join the movement are sent customized ads recognizing their support with partnership placement of their logos. Those interested in supporting and joining this important movement are encouraged to visit NoEsperes.org to learn more.
Rios is confident that future Latino doctors will enter a medical culture that will be changed for the better by the ¡No Esperes! campaign, promoted— she hopes—by the more than 4 million Hispanic-owned businesses across the country.
“This is a very well thought-out campaign to change attitudes of Latinos about health and to promote thinking proactively about cancer, through better, healthier lifestyles. Now it’s time to get the word out,” says Dr. Rios.