National Hispanic Heritage Month: How DHHS Is Supporting the Hispanic Community

Each year from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of Hispanic Americans who came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon B. Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover the 30-day period it is now.

Here are some examples of the work DHHS is doing to support the state’s growing Hispanic community.

Early Childhood
One in five young children in North Carolina is Hispanic or Latino and this population is continuing to grow significantly across our state.

As laid out in the NC Early Childhood Action Plan, all children deserve access to high quality early childhood education, safety and security at home and in their community, and to enter school developmentally on track. To ensure Latinx children grow up with every opportunity possible, DHHS is taking strategic steps to support them through our federal Preschool Development Grant.

DHHS has begun translating key content on our Division of Child Development and Early Education website to reduce barriers to accessing information for families for whom English is not their primary language of communication. The Department is also eager to learn from our statewide needs assessment on what holds back families from enrolling in early childhood education programs.

“As a former bilingual early childhood education teacher, I believe that every parent, every family, wants what is best for their children, and that our state and local systems must do better to support them to access the opportunities their children deserve,” said Rebecca Planchard, DHHS’ Senior Early Childhood Policy Advisor.

Addressing Prediabetes in Minority and Underserved Communities
In response to seeing staggering health outcomes in North Carolina as it pertains to diabetes, the DHHS Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities created the North Carolina Minority Diabetes Prevention Program (NC MDPP) in 2016.

This is a statewide, evidence-based program that aims to prevent type 2 diabetes through education, weight loss and physical activity. It involves collaboration between local health departments, local health care providers, and community organizations across North Carolina and has made strides in reaching and supporting Latinx communities by:

  • Creating culturally appropriate marketing materials to promote Prevent T2 lifestyle change classes to include radio advertisements, flyers, billboards and direct mailers.
  • Hosting community screenings, conversations and events to educate Latinx populations about prediabetes and type 2 diabetes and how it specifically affects their family and communities.
  • Employing regional coordinators, lifestyle coaches and support staff who represent the Latinx community. 
  • Providing culturally-appropriate health information, behavior change ideas and physical activity recommendations.

“What excites our team about working with Latinx populations as it relates to diabetes is that NC MDPP not only focuses on preventing type 2 diabetes, but also on our participants’ whole health,” said Cornell Wright, Executive Director of the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities. “We refer participants to other programs and provide resources to address all other drivers and determinants of health.”

For more information about NC MDPP or to connect to resources in your area, contact ncminorityhealth@dhhs.nc.gov or call 919-707-5040.