Northwest Colorado Health program teaches Latinos about preventative health care | SteamboatToday.com

Northwest Colorado Health program teaches Latinos about preventative health care

Erick Ocampo, far right, community connector for Northwest Colorado Health, poses with recent graduates of the CHARLAR program, which aims to educate Latinos about preventative healthcare.

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— A new class sponsored by Northwest Colorado Health is helping to provide local Latino community members with personal health knowledge they may not have.

The CHARLAR program, which stands for Community Heart Health Actions for Latinos at Risk, has been around in Denver for several years, according to Erick Ocampo, a community connector for Northwest Colorado Health who is running the program in Steamboat Springs.

Ocampo said that many Latinos have poor dietary and health habits, including eating unhealthy foods, overeating, not exercising and not getting help for health issues until the issues are very serious.

"In our culture, we don't really care," Ocampo said.

This summer, Ocampo started an informal, 12-week CHARLAR class aimed at teaching local Latinos about topics such as heart attacks and heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and preventive health care.

The class, which takes place Mondays at the United Methodist Church of Steamboat Springs, has about 13 participants, who range in age from mid-20s to mid-70s.

The participants all speak Spanish and are natives of Mexico, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Peru and Honduras.

Participant Maria Villegas said she was invited to the class by Ocampo and wanted to join to gain the knowledge to help friends and family who might be facing health issues.

"I have learned that prevention is a key to save your life," Villegas said. "You need to be able to recognize what the risks are if you have a sedentary life and poor eating habits."

Ocampo said many local Latinos work and spend time at home but don't engage with the community and don't normally attend classes.

The CHARLAR program feels more accessible to the participants because it is presented in Spanish and taught by Ocampo, who has become a familiar face in the community.

Current students are completing the program this month, and Ocampo plans to start a new class in the spring.

Formerly the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, the renamed Northwest Colorado Health offers a variety of services, including immunizations, programs for new mothers and assistance enrolling in health insurance, in addition to disease prevention programs, including CHARLAR. Other services include women's health screenings, behavioral health care and primary care.

All services are available in Spanish, and if people don't have insurance, they can pay on a sliding scale based on their income.

CHARLAR is a program of CPC Community Health, which is funded by the Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease and Pulmonary Disease Grants Program at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

For more information about CHARLAR, email eocampo@northwestcoloradohealth.org or call 970-819-5963. For information about other services, call 970-879-1632.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow