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Ohio Hispanic/Latino Health Coalition looks to the future following strategic planning session


By Alan Abrams, La Prensa Senior Correspondent


A new and vibrant Ohio Hispanic/Latino Health Coalition is taking shape thanks to the selfless efforts of some of the state’s outstanding Latino community advocates and leaders in health issues.

Sonia Troche


The group came together for a two-day brainstorming session in Elyria, Ohio last month to meet and address the future of the venerable association. The June 19-20, 2009 meeting at the Leadership Lorain County offices in Elyria was designed to seek input from current and potential candidates for membership and set direction for the future.


Sonia Troche, Executive Director of Toledo-based Adelante. Inc., was one of the key participants in the conference. She says the attendees “charted a path to success, including the drafting of by-laws, codifying of policies, and incorporating as an independent with a non-profit 501(c) 3 designation.”


Adelante, Inc. was one of the original organizations that assisted Mary Isa Garayua, the Executive Director of OCCHA (Organizacion Civica y Cultural Hispana Americana, Inc.) of Youngstown and community activist Lydia Alejandro of Fremont in founding the coalition in 1999.


Other coalition members who played a key role in the initial organizing process a decade ago were El Centro de Servicios Sociales of Lorain; Ohio State University; Ag and Hort Labor Education of Bowling Green; Spanish American Committee of Cleveland; Lorain County Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board; and advocates from various Ohio cities.


The June 19-20 minority health event featured keynote speaker and former Toledoan Robert Torres (Economic Development Director for the City of Canton), and focused upon the topic of “Health and Economic Development.” The session facilitator was Margarita De León of Toledo, who is originally from Lorain.


“We followed a very positive agenda,” says Troche. “One key point we made very clear is that membership is open to all Ohio Latino based organizations dealing with health and with an interest to join us. 


“Our goal is to include Columbus and Cincinnati, and we’ve already had inquiries from both cities. We need to enable the organization to recruit other members, which becomes even more important in our future plans.


“As an organization, we will be dealing with policy and advocacy issues and especially how Congress deals with health care issues. We will be dealing regularly with congress people and legislatures.


“It is very important for the coalition to become formalized and to become more structured. We will become a viable organization and self-sustained.  We expect to have our agenda more clearly defined over the next few weeks as we develop our agenda and start to look at funding opportunities,” adds Troche.


So what’s the next step? “We’ll be announcing another public meeting very soon. We should have a clear concept of the bigger picture in two months,” explains Troche.


Since its creation, the Coalition has received funding from the Ohio Commission on minority Health for numerous projects. These included Ritmo y Salud, a 45-minute, bilingual low-impact aerobic video; a Latino cookbook featuring low-fat Latino recipes; and three radio novelas (20-minute soap opera style CDs) addressing cancer, heart disease and diabetes.


The Coalition has sponsored more than six statewide health disparity conferences addressing health diseases most prevalent in Ohio Latino communities and conducted the first Latino Health Needs Survey in 2004. The baseline data from this survey has benefited many organizations in developing programs to address health disparity in their respective Latino communities.


For any group interested in becoming a part of the Coalition, contact Mary Isa Garayua at 330-781-1808 or Sonia Troche at 419-244-8440.






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