George Washington University Launches Center to Address Health Disparities in the Latino Immigrant Community

WASHINGTON, DC (May 22, 2013)—Today the George Washington (GW) University School of Public Health and Health Services (SPHHS) announced the launch of the Avance Center for the Advancement of Immigrant/Refugee Health, a collaboration between SPHHS, the Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers, the Rivera Group, and other community partners. This university-community partnership aims to address public health problems that disproportionately affect Latino communities through research, mutual capacity building and prevention efforts.

“Youth in Latino immigrant communities often struggle with disproportionately high rates of substance use, violence and risky sex – occurring together – as well as other health disparities that threaten individuals, families, and entire neighborhoods” said Mark Edberg, PhD, director of the Avance Center and an associate professor of prevention and community health at SPHHS. “We hope to better understand the complex factors and social contexts that can lead to these health risks in Latino immigrant communities.”
 
The Avance Center was launched today at the Latino Health Disparities Symposium held at the George Washington University in Washington, DC. In addition to unveiling the Avance Center, the symposium highlighted innovative research and kicked off a dialogue on the steps that should be taken in order to find solutions for some of the pressing public health problems that affect many Latino immigrant communities in the United States. 
 
The Center consists of four “Cores” that work together to support the university-community collaboration as a foundation for the development and implementation of a unique health disparities prevention approach, according to Sean D. Cleary, PhD, MPH, an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at SPHHS. The Cores include: an Administrative Core that oversees collaboration and manages the center; a Research Core, which includes the intervention research study called Adelante; a Training/Education Core that provides training and opportunities for GW students to engage with local communities as well as capacity building for community partners; and a Community Engagement/Outreach Core that employs several approaches (including mobile media and social media) to involve community members in the overall prevention effort.  
 
In partnership with the Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers in Langley Park, MD, the Avance Center will be implementing and evaluating the Adelante community-based intervention in Langley Park, said Cleary, who is the principal investigator for the intervention study. Adelante is a program for youth and families that seeks to build individual youth capacities as well as capacities and opportunities in the community environment that surrounds youth, with the idea that this kind of positive support leads to a reduction in risky behavior. Langley Park is a neighborhood near Washington, DC with a high concentration of Latino immigrants and refugees from Central American countries, Cleary said.
 
 “The Adelante intervention research study uses a Positive Youth Development framework to guide this new approach in Latino immigrant communities,” Cleary said. “We hope the results of our research will apply not just to our populations but to other Latino communities in the United States and internationally, as well as other immigrant neighborhoods dealing with similar problems.”
 
The Adelante program intersects with all of the Cores of the Avance Center, and includes youth leadership development, advocacy training, academic support and job training; fitness and recreation activities such as soccer, dance or other sports; art and mural painting; and engagement programs such as video, photography and youth journalism. All of these activities include prevention messages and information related to substance abuse, violence and sex risk. In addition, the program also zeros in on high-risk Latino youth and struggling families and provides them with case-management and counseling services as prevention. 
 
“We are honored and excited to be part of the partnership with SPHHS,” said Luisa Montero-Diaz, director of the Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers. “The Adelante program couldn’t come at a better time—with continual changes in demographics, growing needs in the immigrant community and a stronger government commitment to meeting the needs of such high-risk populations. Through this program, we hope to see youth and families in Langley Park start to participate in healthier behaviors and to advocate for programs and services that can help build a stronger community.”
 
The Avance Center is supported by a five-year research grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.
 
About the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services:
 
Established in July 1997, the School of Public Health and Health Services brought together three longstanding university programs in the schools of medicine, business, and education and is now the only school of public health in the nation’s capital. Today, more than 1,100 students from nearly every U.S. state and more than 40 nations pursue undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral-level degrees in public health.  The school now offers an online Master of Public Health, MPH@GW, which allows students to pursue their degree from anywhere in the world.   http://sphhs.gwu.edu/