Salud America! has launched a digital advertisement campaign to help educate Latinos about slowing the spread of COVID-19. Credit: Courtesy / Salud America! - UT Health

Latinos, who make up 60 percent of Bexar County’s population, have accounted for more than 75 percent of its coronavirus cases. Data from the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District also shows a disproportionate number of COVID-19-related deaths among Latinos.

Salud America!, an organization affiliated with UT Health San Antonio that focuses on Latino health equity, has launched a new campaign that aims to educate Latino families on how to slow the spread of coronavirus, especially among those with underlying illnesses.

The bilingual English-Spanish digital communication campaign launched Sept. 1 features culturally relevant fact sheets, infographics, and video stories shared on social media, said Salud America! Director Amelie Ramirez.

“This campaign is important not just in San Antonio but nationwide, because our Latino community has taken a bigger hit than some of the other population groups,” Ramirez said. “So we felt that we really needed to get the word out for them to try to be as compliant [with the public health recommendations] as possible.”

The #JuntosStopCovid campaign centers on the three main principles experts have stressed during the pandemic: Wear a face mask and care for it properly, know what to do if you’re exposed to the virus or test positive, and avoid public spaces and large gatherings. 

Latinos represent more than 20 percent of COVID-19-related deaths in the U.S., despite being 18.5 percent of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The CDC also reported that 94 percent of people who died from COVID-19 had a pre-existing condition, like diabetes, which disproportionately affects Latinos. Those pre-existing conditions are another focus of the campaign. 

“Among our population, many have diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, higher rates of asthma or any kind of respiratory situation, and some of our smoking rates are a little bit higher in our younger population of Latinos,” Ramirez said. “So we are educating on the increased risk for people with these health concerns.”

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Ramirez said that another reason Latinos may be at increased risk for COVID-19 is because many of them work in service industries or in jobs in which they interact with many people, such as frontline work at grocery stores. These types of jobs do not allow them to work from home. 

Racial and ethnic minorities and those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged often rely on public transportation to get to work, which also increases their risk of being exposed to the coronavirus, said Dr. Goraleh Agha, Metro Health’s chief of informatics at panel last month on health disparities and COVID-19. 

Black and Hispanic people in San Antonio also have higher rates of diabetes-related hospitalizations and amputations, and diabetes is the main underlying health condition for 60 percent of COVID-19-related hospitalizations in Bexar County, Agha said.

A major tenet of the Salud America! campaign is to emphasize the importance of family, which is an important social construct to the Latino community. 

“If they live in multigenerational housing, it’s really hard for them to kind of separate themselves, and it might be hard to prevent large family gatherings, but they can limit [the size of] their gatherings,” Ramirez said. “And limiting the gathering will prevent an outbreak among a family.”

An advertisement gives families information to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when gathering. Credit: Courtesy / Salud America! – UT Health

In addition to sharing information online with its more than 400,000 followers on social media, Salud America! has partnered with Medicare to post information in health care facilities and mail it out to patients.

“It’s been very successful so far,” Ramirez said of the campaign. “The main point we want to get across is that the information we are sharing is the advice of public health experts and is backed by science.”

Ramirez said that the Latino community often relies on getting its news from Spanish-language television networks such as Univision, but there are no local news outlets that inform the Spanish-speaking community about the coronavirus. Salud America! is trying to reach those people who rely on bilingual media and advertising through its social media campaign and website.

 “COVID-19 infection prevention measures work,” Ramirez said, “and Latinos and all people can immediately change habits and interactions to slow the spread.”

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the San Antonio Report.