Salud para su Corazón, a unique community-based heart-health education program
for Latinos, is rapidly expanding across the U.S. making a difference in underserved
communities in Texas, Illinois, New Mexico, and California.
Created by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National
Institutes of Health, Salud para su Corazón trains Latino lay educators promotores
to teach individuals and families in local communities how to prevent and
control heart disease.
Salud para su Corazón began in 1994 as a pilot project in Washington, D.C.
and is not only expanding geographically but has now joined in partnership with
the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the nation’s largest Hispanic grassroots
organization, and the University of North Texas.
“Heart disease is the leading cause of death among Latinos, as it is for all
Americans. But Latinos are generally unaware that the risk factors for heart
disease, including high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, overweight,
physical inactivity, and cigarette smoking can be controlled and prevented,”
said NHLBI Director Dr. Claude Lenfant.
“The good news is that research has shown that the burden of illness and death
associated with heart disease can be reduced by simple lifestyle changes. NHLBI
is committed to taking results of ongoing studies and applying them to serve
the public health. Salud para su Corazón does that by training the promotores
to help Latinos make those changes and live a healthy lifestyle,” Lenfant added.
Through a variety of creative activities, including cooking demonstrations,
“weigh-ins,” and participation in physical activity, the promotores bring life-saving
heart-health information to their neighbors and families. Salud para su Corazón’s
culturally-appropriate educational materials are offered in both English and
At 35 million persons strong, Latinos constitute 13 percent of the population,
making them the largest minority population in the United States.
“Latinos are one of the youngest population groups,” said Matilde Alvarado,
NHLBI’s coordinator of Minority Health Education and Outreach Activities. “This
is a plus because they have a chance to learn heart-healthy behaviors at a young
age and hopefully will continue those behaviors throughout life.”
According to Hector Balcazar, Ph.D., Department Chair and Professor, School
of Public Health, University of North Texas, Latino children are experiencing
a dramatic increase in obesity. In addition, he notes that high blood pressure
levels and the rise of diabetes in young Latino children are alarming developments
and must be addressed through prevention efforts in Latino families.
“Salud para su Corazón’s promotores know the problems that our families face
and are realistic about teaching them how to make small changes in their behavior
that lead to improved health,” said Dr. Balcazar. The north Texas Salud para
su Corazón program in Dallas-Fort Worth recently was named one of 6 NHLBI-supported
cardiovascular disease information Enhanced Dissemination and Utilization Centers
(EDUCs). The EDUCs are part of a network of partners working in high-risk populations
at the community level. Their goal is to increase the quality and years of healthy
life and eliminate cardiovascular health disparities.
NCLR President Raul Yzaguirre addressed the importance of the alliance between
his organization, NHLBI, and the University of North Texas. “We are working
together toward a common goal to improve health outcomes in the Latino community,”
he said. Yzaguirre also acknowledged the significance of funding from the MetLife
Foundation, which enabled NCLR to expand the program further.
Teresa Andrews, a promotores coordinator in Escondido, California, changed
not only her own life but is now helping to improve the health of others in
her Latino California community. After moving to the United States, she says,
her support group of friends and family was gone. She didn’t speak English and,
although she had been able to walk everywhere in her native country, she hesitated
to venture outside of her new home in California because nothing was near enough
to walk to. She had to rely on the car, which her husband needed each day to
get to his job. In addition, instead of preparing meals at home with natural
products like fresh fruits and vegetables, Teresa found herself turning to fast
food for most of her family’s meals. Her sense of isolation, lack of physical
activity, and the increase in high fat foods seemed insurmountable; she became
depressed and gained weight. When Teresa became a promotora, she suddenly was
part of a group of Spanish-speaking people who shared many of her experiences
and had found innovative ways to cope.
“The training I received as a promotora helped me learn how to protect my own
and my family’s heart health by modifying the new lifestyle I picked up after
moving to the U.S.,” Teresa said. Her spirits rose and her weight fell, partly
thanks to the Spanish-language aerobics class she attended and which she now
has led for four years.
“I am proud of the personal and professional successes I have had and I am
excited about working with a group of 25 promotores in Chula Vista, California
who want to be trained to teach Salud para su Corazón,” Teresa said. “This will
expand the program and its heart-health message many times over,” she added.
All of Salud para su Corazón’s materials can be found online so Latinos everywhere
can learn about heart health and so community planners can bring the program
to their own community. Go to: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/prof/heart/latino/latin_pg.htm.
Note to editors and reporters:
To contact NHLBI call the NHLBI Communications Office at (301) 496-4236.
To contact NCLR call (202) 785-1670
To contact Dr. Balcazar call (817) 735-5430