Profiled in the Chicago Sun-Times!

Chicago women who have a lot to say in 140 characters or less

Here is the excerpt:

@erikalsanchez

Feminism. Poetry. Chicago. Celebrating the life of being a brown girl in the city. These are topics near and dear to Erika L. Sánchez, aka the “Latinamisfit.” Like others here, the 29-year-old from West Town is a writer. Her timeline offers a much-needed diversity of perspective. And mirth.

Twitter philosophy: “I like interacting with other women on Twitter. It’s a way to engage in conversations with people who are afar. I talk about food constantly because I’m always hungry. And I do like to promote what I think are important articles about immigration and women issues.”

Poetry Night in Pilsen on 12/19 presented by Gozamos

Poetry Night in Pilsen on 12/19 presented by Gozamos

On December 19, 2013 7:30 pm at Gozamos in Pilsen
Address: 1900 S. Carpenter., Chicago, IL | Cost: Free

Gozamos.com is proud to host a night of poetry at our new space in Pilsen. We’ve invited three Chicago poets to share their words, so come join us in celebrating local artists and their work. The night will be hosted by Hector Luis Alamo Jr. This is a free event and refreshment will be available with a donation.  Doors open at 7:30pm, the first reading will begin at 8:00pm.

About the Poets

Erika L Sánchez is a poet and writer living in Chicago. Her nonfiction has been published in Cosmopolitan for Latinas, NBCLatino, Truthout, Salon, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, and other publications. Her poems have appeared in Pleiades, Witness, Hunger Mountain, Crab Orchard Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Copper Nickel, and others. She is a CantoMundo fellow, recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship, and winner of the 2013 “Discovery”/Boston Review poetry prize.

Jacob Saenz is a CantoMundo Fellow whose poetry has been published in Poetry, Great River Review, OCHO and other journals. He has been recipient of a Letras Latinas Residency and a Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship, and he currently serves as an associate editor for RHINO.

Denise Santina Ruíz is a Puerto Rican writer, mother, designer and agitator. She was a two-time finalist for the annual Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Competition, and has featured in such events/venues as the Annual Barrio Arts Festival, the Athenaeum Theater, Batey Urbano, Ponce-at-night, Guild Complex’s Palabra Pura and Columbia College’s 2nd Story among others. Denise recently wrote and performed in the performance piece, “Unnatural Spaces,” from the Guild Complex’s Poetry-Performance Incubator. She has also taught poetry and creative writing to youth in the Humboldt Park community where she was born and raised and is the owner of “Madre de Perla Designs.” She believes in real talk, revolution and statement earrings.

Article on HIV/AIDS Stigma on Al Jazeera

US Latinos struggle with HIV stigma

Chicago, United States – Maria Mejia grew up in an abusive household, so at the age of 13 she ran away from home and joined a gang in search of a sense of family. Soon after, she began dating the leader of the gang, a drug user, who infected her with HIV.

Mejia estimates she was infected between 1988 or 1989, when she was about 15 or 16 years old. She says she was diagnosed by sheer coincidence. Tired of the gang life, she decided to move back home and then joined the Job Corps in Kentucky, which required routine medical tests. A week before her 18th birthday, a doctor incorrectly informed that she had AIDS when she was, in fact, HIV-positive.

Distraught and confused, Mejia says she moved back home to Miami to die. Her mother, whom she describes as an “ultraconservative Catholic Latina”, told her, “We’re going to put this in God’s hands”, and asked her not to tell anyone in the family. Even though her mother’s shame was hurtful, Mejia said she was only trying to protect her.

Please continue reading on Al Jazeera.

Appearance on Latino USA on NPR

I’m so pleased to have been interviewed by Maria Hinojosa for Latino USA on NPR. Please listen to our conversation about Latina Sex Stereotypes:

For Latina women it can often seem like there are only two types of representation they see in the media. They’re either sexy and “spicy” or religious and family oriented. But is that really the case?

Latino USA host Maria Hinojosa speaks to writer, poet, and sex columnist for Cosmo for Latinas, Erika L. Sánchez about growing up in a “traditional” Mexican family while being an American girl, feminism, and facing fear.

 

 

Article on Affordable Care Act, NBC Latino

Explaining health care law to mixed-status families, young people


by Erika L. Sanchez, @ErikaLSanchez

9:04 am on 10/01/2013

In Kern County, California, the Community Health Initiative aims to educate Latinos on the new health care exchanges by partnering with various family resource centers where community members are already seeking help. The organization trains Certified Enrollment Counselors to help families through the application process by explaining their options and gathering required documentation. They also hope to address any confusion regarding the new law and prepare for any possible scams.

“There are always people who seek to take advantage of our community. It’s definitely something that we intend to tackle,” says Edgar Aguilar, program manager. He stresses that those seeking to enroll should know that they should never be charged any fee for assistance and that enrollment counselors are not allowed to ask for any financial information, such as credit card numbers or bank numbers,

Aguilar says that another challenge is educating mixed-status families. “A big fear is something called ‘public charge.’ Somebody can be deemed ‘public charge’ if they access public services and it affects them negatively in status adjustment. Word of mouth is powerful among the Latino community,” he says. “Our job is to clear this up and clear up misconceptions.”

While undocumented immigrants cannot participate in the healthcare exchanges, Aguilar says undocumented immigrants may fear that seeking healthcare for their family members who have legal status would affect their own chances of obtaining a green card.  The agencies explain that seeking medical insurance for their families would not be considered “public charge.”

Advising undocumented immigrants that they can seek coverage for their family members with legal status is important, since according to The Pew Hispanic Center, nearly two-thirds of unauthorized immigrants had lived in the U.S. for at least a decade and nearly half (46 percent) were parents of minor children in 2010.

The most important part of the work they do, Aguilar believes, is explaining exactly how health insurance works. Some immigrants, for instance, may be unfamiliar with the U.S. healthcare system.

“Health care isn’t something you think about until you need it. We want to change that attitude,” says Aguilar. “Our community needs to understand that regular doctor visits can prevent so many diseases,”

Aguilar believes that healthcare access is important, but that it’s even more important to educate communities about how to effectively utilize those services.

It is estimated that about nine million Latinos will gain health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. So far, 6.1 million Latinos have already gained coverage for preventive services without out-of-pocket costs.

Many organizations are educating Latinos about their options and helping them enroll in plans that suit their needs. Vanessa Gonzalez-Plumhoff, director of Latino Leadership and Engagement at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, says her organization is actively engaging the community through the internet and door to door outreach.

Because Latinos over index on social media, Gonzalez-Plumhoff says they are pushing out information through their website, Twitter, and Facebook. Planned Parenthood has also launched new sites in English and Spanish to help everyone understand what the law means, how they can benefit, and why it’s important to have health insurance. Additionally, they can sign up for email updates and text SALUD to 97779 to get important information about the Affordable Care Act. Their new site will also include a guide for women who are searching for insurance coverage in the marketplace. Since many will be searching for a plan for the first time, the interview guide can help women select the best plan for them.

“In our community there’s a sense of ‘I’ve never had healthcare and why should I have it now?’” says Gonzalez-Plumbloff, who hopes that with the proper information, those who have been uninsured will be willing to enroll. She points out that that birth control benefits will be especially beneficial to Latinas because they have the highest unintended pregnancy rates and are most likely to skip birth control due to cost. “Eliminating the copay is huge,” she says.

Planned Parenthood says it is prepared for the challenges they might face in promoting the Affordable Care Act in the Latino community, especially among undocumented immigrants. “When you have a large government program, it can make people in our community a little nervous. Planned Parenthood is canvassing to provide people information at their homes. If they can’t qualify, we’re encouraging them to register the rest of their family,” Gonzalez-Plumhoff says.

Article on Maternal Health, NBC Latino

Improving maternal and child well-being at heart of “global health,” says Latino expert


by Erika L. Sanchez, @ErikaLSanchez

9:05 am on 09/20/2013

A country’s progress is measured in large part by the health of its population.  Recently at a conference in Panama, U.S. and Latin American leaders went further, saying it’s very much about a particular group.

“Maternal and child health,” says Ariel Pablos-Méndez, MD, MPH, Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Global Health at the USAID, “is at the heart of global health.” Pablos-Méndez, who is a board-certified internist, immigrated to New York from Mexico 35 years ago to pursue a medical career in the United States. He says that his early work with AIDS, as well as tuberculosis treatment and prevention, eventually led him to work in the global health space.

In March 2011, Pablos-Méndez was nominated by President Obama to help steer the Bureau for Global Health’s efforts to accomplish scalable, sustainable and measurable impacts on the lives of people in developing countries. Pablos-Mendez says he is passionate about preventing child and maternal deaths, and believes that with the continued efforts of USAID, this ongoing global problem can finally be eradicated.

“We see a future when we can indeed end child and maternal deaths,” he says. “The rest of the world can join us.”

Pablos-Méndez was one of a group of high level representatives from Latin America, the U.S. and other countries who convened in Panama City for “A Promised Renewed For the Americas.” The aim of the conference was to reduce inequities in reproductive, maternal, and child health as well as identify key interventions and strategic shifts in the Americas.

RELATED: Health care, education key to combating rising poverty rates among children, say experts

While AIDS and tuberculosis have gained a lot of attention through The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, maternal and child health has unfortunately lost visibility, according to Pablos-Méndez. Many women and children continue to die from preventable causes all around the world.

The numbers are staggering. The Pan-American Health Organization has found that more than 180,000 children under the age of 5 and nearly 9,000 mothers still die annually in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Each year, over 121,000 babies in Latin American countries will die during their first month of life. Nearly a quarter of these neonatal deaths are due to premature births and low birth weight. These deaths are more likely to happen if the baby is born to a mother who is poor, uneducated, or lives in a rural area. 95 percent of indigenous children are malnourished, and stunting is 20 percent more prevalent among them. In addition, their life expectancy is 7 to 13 years shorter than the national average.

Fortunately, favorable economic conditions in Latin America have increased in the last decade. Due to years of rapid growth, the World Bank estimates that 70 million people in Latin America have risen out of poverty and 50 million have joined the middle class during this time. A new report from UNICEF found that the world’s neonatal mortality rate fell from 33 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 21 per 1,000 in 2012.

Being from Mexico, Pablos-Méndez is immensely proud of what Latin America has been able to accomplish in a relatively short period of time.

“It’s truly incredible that 50 years ago we couldn’t imagine this possible,” he says.

RELATED: Latina Leaders: From East LA to the White House, trying to improve the health of Latinos

Despite overall progress in the region, Pablos-Méndez explains that some countries are lagging behind due to the disparities between the rich and poor. “A Promised Renewed,” he says, is to advance the goals of bridging those wealth gaps. He believes that Latin American countries can accomplish these goals on their own, but it’s crucial to hold governments accountable.

“In order for this to happen, you need better measurements within countries,” he says. “We want to map out where this is occurring and monitor the disparities between the richest and poorest.”

Less than one percent of the total federal budget, Pablos-Méndez states, goes to USAID, though they work in over 100 countries. Still, millions of child and maternal deaths can be prevented.

“American people are helping with their tax dollars,” he says. “And thanking the American people is what I would like to convey.”

 

Article on Diabetes, NBC Latino

Latino advocates combat diabetes: “In order to save ourselves, work to be done”

by Erika L. Sanchez, @ErikaLSanchez
5:00 am on 09/12/2013

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez began blogging about living with diabetes in 2010. “It helped me find a community that would understand what I was going through,” she says.
Rodriguez, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was only seven-years-old, felt the need to share her experiences with other Latinos who suffer from the disease. “I don’t have it. I live with it,” she says.

“There were so many people of Latino descent – that had nowhere to turn to,” she says. “It’s about not having resources, not having education. We need the community to start educating themselves and want to be educated. In order to save ourselves, there’s a lot of work to be done.”

RELATED: NYC diabetes program offers personalized treatment with heart
Hispanic/Latino Americans, African Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islander Americans are at particularly high risk for type 2 diabetes.

According to the Office of Minority Health, Mexican Americans are almost twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be diagnosed with diabetes by a physician. They also have higher rates of end-stage renal disease, caused by diabetes, and they are 50 percent more likely to die from diabetes than non-Hispanic whites. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also found that the disease is more prevalent in women– of the 25.6 million adults with diabetes in the United States in 2010, 12.6 million were women.

The rates are showing no signs of slowing down. A 2012 study released by research affiliates with the American Diabetes Association found that the number of Latino children and youth under 20 years of age diagnosed with diabetes is rapidly growing, faster than any other ethnic group in the U.S

Estela Barraza, director of Power1K Kids Program in Arizona, is working to prevent diabetes in Latino children. During the 12 week program she has developed, a group of overweight fourth and fifth graders are taught how to increase their physical activity, cook healthy meals, and make better choices. Because the program is centered on the entire family, parents are also required to attend.

Barraza believes that there are few diabetes interventions focused on Hispanic populations. “One of my biggest passions as been exercise,” she says. “My degree in Kinesiology has made me aware of the disparities and how exercise can prevent it.” In addition to her work at Power1K, Barraza is currently working with researchers on a study called Every Little Step Counts, a community-based diabetes prevention program for obese Latino youth.

Por tu Familia, a Latino-focused program from the American Diabetes Association, is also committed to preventing diabetes through community-based activities. “The goal is to get rid of all misconceptions,” says Alexandra Santana, manager of Por tu Familia in Chicago.

During many of their events throughout the city, members of the community have the opportunity to ask doctors and other medical professionals any questions they might have about the disease. All of their activities are free and they often offer glucose and cholesterol screenings. They will be holding 10 events this month in celebration of Hispanic Heritage month.

Por Tu Familia also trains doctors, nurses, and anyone interested in promoting diabetes prevention and awareness to educate their patients or communities about the disease through their Promotores program. According to Santana, all the the training materials have been evaluated and approved by endocrinologists and doctors and are available in both languages.
“We’re celebrating that we are one of the key markets in the U.S.,” she says. “We want to continue improving and reaching out to more people.”