Madison’s young Latino population is growing fast and often have health questions and health needs that are not always properly addressed. There’s a particular need for access to quality health care information that is culturally and linguistically appropriate.

“It’s very important to get young people thinking about health issues at an early age. Not only the health issues, but the education issues,” says Dr. Patricia Tellez-Gíron. “People have asked us in the past, ‘Why do you talk about education at a health summit?’ We tell them that without education, you cannot be healthy. It’s really important for us to do that.

“Our Latino community is a very young community, so we know that we need to get to the younger generation faster than we used to do,” she adds. “That’s why we’ve incorporated a lot of activities for kids at our events and why we’ve really focused to make the Latino Teen Health Bash all it can be.”

Tellez-Gíron, associate professor of family medicine for the UW Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, is co-chair of the Latino Health Council who will once again be hosting their annual Latino Teen Health Bash on Saturday, Dec. 9, 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. at Bethel Lutheran Church in downtown Madison.

Dr. Patricia Tellez-Gíron

The Latino Health Council (LHC) has been working in Madison for over two decades now, first created in 1994 to address specific cancer and health-related issues facing the Latino community.The mission of the LHC is to promote and support the health and well-being of the Latino community through education, advocacy, consulting and networking. LHC hosts a yearly Latino Health Fair where over 500 people are generally in attendance and they host programs, conferences, and forums around different health issues. Since 2008, they also host a weekly radio program in Spanish focusing on health education.

The Latino Health Council of Dane County has been a vital resource for individuals and organizations interested in Latino health as they hosted numerous Latino health-related events. A little over 7 years ago, Tellez-Gíron’s niece pointed out to her that there were no health events that were particularly attractive to area teens. “’You need to do something for us!’ she said. I had her put together a proposal and present it to the group and she even had the name – it has to be a teen bash,” Tellez-Gíron remembers.

“So this is year number seven for the Latino Health Bash,” continues Tellez-Gíron, who first came to Madison from Mexico two decades ago where she had been a doctor before she went through the process of becoming a credentialed physician in the United States. “We invite only the teens; not the parents. The topics for the event are selected by the teens.”

Every year, the Latino Health Council has a group of consultants – this year it was a group of kids from Madison Memorial High School – who help figure out what the young people want to talk about at the event.

“Once I get the topics from them, I find the speakers that are experienced in presenting with teens,” Tellez-Gíron says. “On top of this, I have a group of Latino pre-med students at the university that I’m mentoring and teaching leadership skills. So they are actually the ones who take the lead in organizing and directing the event.”

Tellez-Gíron is speaking of the UW-Madison Professional Association of Latinos for Medical School Access(PALMA), a student organization established in 2008. PALMA provides resources for, but not exclusively to, Latino/a students at the UW who are interested in medicine and/or a medical career. Its members are committed to expanding the participation of groups who have traditionally been underrepresented in the health profession fields.

“They have been doing this from the very beginning with us and helping us to organize this event,” Tellez-Gíron says. “They always do a great job.”

At last year’s Annual Latino Teen Health Bash: (L-r) LHC co-chair Shiva Bidar, Patricia Christenson, Fernando Cano,Alita de la O, LHC co-chair Dr. Patricia Tellez-Giron, and Miguel McDonald.

Sponsors of the Latino Teen Health Bash this year will include Madison Gas & Electric and Group Health Cooperative. Centro Hispano of Dane County is the partnering organization for the event.

“Obviously, we are looking for Latinos to come to the event but we have had people with friends from different races and ethnicities come to the event before, too,” says Tellez-Gíron.

The main presentation for the event will be “Healthy Lifestyle” by Mariana Nino de Guzman and Alianza Latinx will make a presentation at lunch. Afternoon workshops will touch on “Healthy Relationships” with Margo DeNuccio of Planned Parenthood, “Bullying” with Fernando Cano and “Education” with Lalo Mancilla. Cecilia Goldschmidt will have a workshop on “Communication” and Owen Karcher will talk about “Motivation.”

Everybody who attends the Latino Teen Health Bash will get at $5 movie card and there will be food at the event.

“We are hoping to have at least 50 teens that will come and benefit from the information,” Tellez-Gíron says. “The parents get excited about this event because there are many things they don’t feel comfortable talking about at home. That obviously helps relationships in the family.

“It’s also an exciting event for my pre-med students who are showing their leadership skills with this in planning the event,” she adds. “Our Memorial High students also feel validated and feel like they have a place in the community because they are helping us with the agenda. The Latino Teen Health Bash serves many purposes.”

If you are interested in or want more information about the Latino Teen Health Bash, call (608)441-9918.

Written by David Dahmer

David Dahmer

A. David Dahmer is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Madison365.