Agencies work to ensure smoking education reaches non-English speakers

2013-01-31T19:00:00Z 2013-02-01T07:52:03Z Agencies work to ensure smoking education reaches non-English speakersBy Vanessa Renderman vanessa.renderman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3244 nwitimes.com

Persuading smokers to kick the habit can be tough enough. Add in a language barrier, and the message can get lost in translation.

The Indiana Latino Institute in Indianapolis partners with Lake, Tippecanoe and St. Joseph counties to ensure Spanish-speaking people receive health education in their communities, said Marlene Dotson, executive director of the institute.

In Lake County, that partner is Healthy East Chicago.

Cynthia Rivas, executive director of that agency, said the group does community outreach through presentations at schools, churches, doctor's offices and workplaces, and it serves people who walk in the door.

For heavily Latino areas, it is important to have Spanish-speaking workers available to communicate the messages and provide the right resources, rather than send people on a wild goose chase, Rivas said.

"When people want to quit (smoking), you want to get them right then," she said. "They're ready to do this."

Workers give presentations in Spanish or English, whichever language the group prefers.

The Indiana Latino Institute this week sponsored a training seminar in Indianapolis called Educating Indiana Leaders: Reducing Disease and Death Caused by Tobacco in Indiana.

Hoosier health is essential to keep the state competitive in the business arena, Dotson said.

"Investors would like to invest in a healthy state," she said. "We see in Indiana tobacco use kills more than 9,700 Hoosiers every year. This represents high costs in the state."

The number of Indiana residents who use tobacco has dropped, she said, attributing part of the success to the launch of the toll-free tobacco quit line (800-QUIT-NOW). The quit line served more than 84,000 Hoosiers since it began in 2006, Dotson said.

Rivas said Healthy East Chicago often refers people to the quit line.

"It's like you have your own personal coach to help you quit," she said.

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