Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset expands outreach efforts in Latino community

After seeing a surge of COVID-19 cases among members of the Latino community this spring, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset, an RWJBarnabas Health facility, launched bilingual outreach efforts to help area Latino residents prevent the spread of the illness.

Through more than 20 events over the past six months held in collaboration with local schools, churches, food banks, health departments and municipalities, the hospital’s Community Health and Diversity & Inclusion departments have distributed nearly 17,000 masks, 5,000 hand sanitizers and 5,000 soaps as well as Spanish-language educational materials.

The hospital has also formed a Latino Advisory Council with about 20 representatives from local government, businesses and organizations serving the Latino community to further expand its community outreach efforts.

As a result of input from the group, the hospital has launched a new online health education series in Spanish for members of the Latino community. Topics include the importance of exercise, the difference between flu and COVID-19 and diabetes prevention.

“The COVID-19 pandemic created a heightened awareness of the health care needs of our local Latino community,” said Tony Cava, president and CEO of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset. “We recognize that there are many factors that contribute to their overall health and wellness, including lack of insurance, access to healthy food, transportation and language barriers. Working with our community partners, we hope to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19 in the Latino community and develop programs to help keep them healthy throughout their lives.”

The hospital’s recent outreach events were held in Bound Brook, North Plainfield, Franklin, Manville, Hillsborough and Somerville. Community Health Department staff and bilingual staff from the hospital’s SALUD Business Resource Group (Service and Advocacy for Latinos United for Development) helped distribute materials and answer questions.

“We believe our efforts did make a difference in helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the Latino community,” said Serena Collado, director of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset’s Community Health Department. “We also want to make them aware of the many resources we have available and build relationships with them so that when they need help, they will turn to us for care.”

The hospital offers an El Poder Sobre La Diabetes Program, a free 12 -week diabetes prevention and management program led in Spanish. A Senos Sanos program focuses on breast health and encourages women to get their annual mammograms.

“We are excited to partner with members of our community through our new Latino Advisory Council to further expand the programs and services we offer to the Latino community,” said Paula Gutierrez, director of Diversity and Inclusion at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset. “The group’s input is invaluable in helping us understand areas of need and identify ways we can collaborate to promote the health of our diverse community.”

Members of the council include Somerset County Freeholder Sara Sooy, Raritan Borough Councilman Pablo Orozco, Bound Brook Councilman Abel Gomez, local clergy, business leaders and representatives from the Somerset County Democratic Hispanic Caucus. The group meets