Mine, Yours...Better or just Different?

May 23, 2007

While reading "Do you speak English or Spanish?," a comment posted in The Mom Squawk Blog, I was reminded of the importance of understanding, respecting and valuing differences within what I consider my own Latino family. The blogger, a Puerto Rican mom-to-be, shares some of the old wives' tales she has heard about childbirth: "after birth, you must eat a lot of fish so you can have a good breastfeeding experience; do not cut your childs hair before he turns one year old. Otherwise he will not speak clearly." 

Every culture has its own traditions, values, cultural habits and, let's not leave out, superstitions. If we try to look at a culture through our own cultural glasses, the result is a distorted and erroneous appreciation of what that group or society is all about.

Many of the translations/adaptations we do in our unit focus on nutrition, and cultural sensitivity is a tenet we value highly. A recent Latinoeyes Health Beat study found that the most important factor influencing Latinos health perceptions and behaviors is their acculturation level. Our own Lucia Kaiser, Joanne Ikeda, Martha Lopez, among others, have done extensive research on this topic.  

To peak your interest, here are some of the study's findings:

Generally, Latinos think exercising regularly (28%) the most important thing to maintaining good health, followed by eating well (22%).xercising regularly is more important to Central Americans than any other ethnic group. Mexicans more predominantly than any other group say being overweight is the most visible sign of being unhealthy. Eating fruits and vegetables is more a concern for males than females (11% vrsus 5%) found this surprising! Unacculturated Latinos are four times more likely to state that they do not feel any different when they eat healthy and exercise when compared to acculturated Latinos. Latinos believe in the restorative power of rest and socialization.

Moraleja: The more we understand the diverse and heterogeneous Latino population, the better prepared we can be to plan, develop and implement strategies to have a real and lasting impact on their lives and well being.

By Myriam Grajales-Hall
Author - Communications Manager