Reaching the Hispanic Community About Cancer Prevention and Early Detection
As NIH celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month in September, it is worth noting the contributions of Dr. Huerta, a familiar and reassuring voice known to many Latinos who tune into "Cuidando su Salud" ("Taking Care of Your Health") - his daily, hour-long, call-in radio show in Washington, D.C. The show is aired by more than 120 commercial and nonprofit radio stations across the Americas and can also be heard on Dr. Huerta's Web site (http://www.prevencion.org).
An expert in internal medicine, oncology, public health, and cancer prevention, Dr. Huerta works with the Latin American Coalition for Cancer Research and NCI to educate the Spanish-speaking community about cancer. He also creates awareness among his listeners about the importance and availability of sources of credible cancer information in Spanish, such as NCI's Cancer Information Service's toll-free hotline.
A sense of urgency underlies Dr. Huerta's mission: "The problem is when Latinos come to a clinic or hospital, they usually have very advanced cancer. Why is that? Partly it's because of a sense of fatalism they have - a belief that they are destined by a higher being to suffer cancer." In addition, he laments, many Latinos feel hampered by "linguistic isolation, poverty, lack of insurance, and lack of information. All these barriers prevent Latinos from looking for early care."
Dr. Huerta believes in the power of the media to reach Latinos and make a difference in their lives at an early stage. He has combined his talents to translate and broadcast highly technical medical information into easy-to-understand messages. Dr. Huerta preaches prevention and early detection through the radio, television, and Internet; cancer is a major topic of his show.
Dr. Huerta's cancer information messages are presented in creative ways, such as using a radio soap opera format. In a recent program, he raised awareness about preventing colon cancer and the importance of colorectal screening to save lives.
Listeners to "Cuidando su Salud" call to express their health concerns and ask Dr. Huerta about a wide range of topics. Many among the audience have limited education, low incomes, no or inadequate health insurance, and in many cases do not speak or understand English. For them, Dr. Huerta is a reliable and friendly source of medical advice and knowledge about available health resources.
"Throughout my medical career I've found it very, very sad that people get sick and die because of ignorance of basic health education issues," he says. "Do whatever you want with the information that I'm giving you. If you want to listen, that's fine. If you don't want to listen, that's fine too. I just want them to be aware of their options."