The Department of Health Services, within the University of Washington School of Public Health, is the new home for the university’s Latino Center for Health.
[Photo: Dr. Gino Aisenberg]
Founded in 2014, the center had been based administratively within the University’s Health Sciences Administration. It moved to the School of Public Health in part because the Department of Health Services was able to provide administrative and financial support aligned with the center’s community-oriented research mission, said founding co-director Dr. Gino Aisenberg, an associate professor of social work who specializes in mental health.
“It is the first research center in the state of Washington that focuses exclusively on issues of Latino health,” said Dr. Aisenberg, also an associate dean of the Graduate School.
The center is a natural fit for the Department of Health Services, with researchers examining how to increase cancer screening and prevention among Latino populations, how to improve the mental health of Latina immigrant women, and how to improve the health of Latinos residing in rural communities exposed to pollutants and pesticide drift, said department chair Dr. Jeffrey Harris. Latinos account for 12 percent of Washington state’s population, but often lack access to critical health services that are linguistically and culturally competent.
“The School is dedicated to promoting health equity, and really is a leader across the University in addressing social determinants of health,” Dr. Harris said. “The Latino Center for Health tries to promote Latino health and also addresses the special challenges of a population that is largely immigrant and faces socio-economic and other challenges, including racism.”
Part of the center’s mission includes engaging community stakeholders and informing policy makers of evidence-based research. Earlier this year, the Washington state legislature renewed $500,000 in biennial funding for the center. The Latino Center for Health also recently held a fundraising breakfast to support a small grant program that supports graduate students working on Latino health issues, Dr. Aisenberg said.
Dr. Leo Morales, a professor of medicine and adjunct professor of health services, is founding co-director of the center. Dr. India Ornelas, associate professor of health services, is the center’s research director. Ms. Antoinette Angulo is special projects advisor. In all, 25 faculty members are affiliated with the center.