Through its Mi Vida, Mi Salud (“My Life, My Health”) program, the Latino Health Insurance Program conducts healthy aging classes, provides transportation and assists older adults with medical coverage and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) enrollment. The program helps low-income Latino seniors in Framingham, Marlborough, Milford, Ashland, Boston and Worcester to improve their lifestyles, eating habits and overall health.

Research has shown that individuals from Hispanic communities have a higher prevalence of chronic diseases including diabetes and hypertension. Hispanics are also disproportionately affected by obesity.

“This community not only faces multiple chronic diseases, but they’re less likely to have medical coverage, less likely to have a primary care physician and less likely to understand their condition,” said Milagros Abreu, founder and project director of the Latino Health Insurance Program. “As a result, it’s extremely important that we show them how to overcome some of these barriers and manage their diseases to reduce complications.”

Making Aging Well a Priority

Participants in a class offered by the Latino Health Insurance Program

According to Abreu, the barriers to medical care for this population include language, financial need and lack of caregiver support to help with transportation. “We had one elder in our program who walked two miles each way just to get to his doctor’s appointments,” said Abreu. “By offering transportation, we’ve seen program participants do a better job in keeping their medical appointments and adhering to doctors’ recommendations like picking up their prescriptions.”

Through evidence-based classes including Healthy Eating for Successful Living and Mi Vida, Mi Salud, the Spanish version of Chronic Disease Self-Management, participants learn important skills, such as nutrition, how to manage their chronic diseases and how to communicate with their doctors. Since August 2012, the Latino Health Insurance Program has enrolled 200 participants in its classes. All of the participants who have attended the Mi Vida, Mi Salud workshops through the Latino Health Insurance Program reported they were “very satisfied” with the program, and many highlighted their improved understanding of nutrition labels and weight control for managing their chronic diseases.

“The results are very gratifying,” said Abreu. “One person in our class never used to eat breakfast until he learned the importance of nutrition and eating patterns. Now he eats a healthy breakfast every day and says he has more energy. Another participant didn’t drink water at all, only soda. After replacing sugary beverages with water, he lost 22 pounds. Other participants have reported better sleep patterns, feeling less isolated and decreasing the number of medications needed to manage their conditions.”

“Aging is for everyone, and therefore aging well has to be a priority,” continued Abreu. “I am glad to be part of an initiative to educate Hispanic seniors about health prevention and literacy, and ultimately give them a better quality of life.”

This story was published originally in the Tufts Health Plan Foundation’s December 2013 newsletter.