Latin Americans are the largest immigrant population in Durham, making up 13.4 percent of the population in 2016. According to the 2017 Durham County Community Needs Assessment, access to health care coverage and the English-Spanish language barrier were among the major health disparities faced by Latinos in our community.
In 1992, during the early beginnings of El Centro Hispano, similar health disparities existed among the one percent of Latinos living in Durham; however, there were large gaps in education and social services. The Episcopal and Catholic churches saw the needs of Latino families settling in the community and answered the call. Launching in the basement of one of the churches, the program became known as the Hispanic Resource Center. Early services provided included English as a Second Language (ESL) classes for the whole family, summer camps for children and a women’s group.
Five years later, in 1997, the organization received non-profit status and rebranded as El Centro Hispano. El Centro Hispano’s mission is “to strengthen the community, build bridges and advocate for equity and inclusion for Hispanics/Latinos in the Triangle Area of North Carolina.” Their services include:
- Economic Development (via establishment of the Latino Credit Union in 2000)
- Health and well-being (e.g., breast cancer prevention, HIV/STD prevention and nutrition)
- Community Engagement and Advocacy
In addition to the services listed above, El Centro Hispano provides tools for positive influence in the community and guidance on how to navigate the education system, health systems and social services in the area.
El Centro Hispano is also a clinical site for DUSON’s ABSN students. The DUSON Community Health Improvement Partnership Program collaborates with El Centro Hispano to provide health fairs, health education, ESL classes and medical Spanish. El Centro Hispano is the major community partner for the SER Research Study—a study led by Rosa Gonzalez-Guarda, PhD, MPH, RN, CPH, FAAN, associate professor, examining the role that multiple acculturation stressors and resilience factors at the individual, family and community levels play in the decay or maintenance of health among young adult Hispanic immigrants. El Centro Hispano’s president, Pilar Rocha, plays an instrumental role in the SER Research study as a co-investigator with Gonzalez-Guarda. The study is currently in recruitment and data collection phases and seeks to understand the physical and mental health consequences of acculturation stress and resilience among Latinos immigrants in the research triangle area.