Library spreads the health
Special for The Arizona Republic
Jul. 23, 2005
Grants used to get medical news to Hispanics
Imagine having a serious health condition but being unable to learn anything
about it because the only information you can find is in another language.
Frieda Ling, health librarian at the Glendale Public Library, realized this is
the case for a large number of Hispanic residents who call the West Valley home.
"Many Hispanics do not speak English or enough English to take advantage of the
resources we have in the library and no other means of accessing health
information," Ling said.
In response, Ling developed Operation Health Outreach, a yearlong series of
bilingual programs aimed at getting health information to Hispanics.
"There is an above-national-average percentage of Hispanic people in Glendale,"
she said. "The national average is 21 percent, and in downtown Glendale it is 63
Late last year, the National Network of Libraries of Medicine awarded $25,000 to
the Glendale Public Library to fund the project, which is sponsored by NAMI West
Valley, Psi Omega Pi, the University of Phoenix Chapter of Chi Sigma Iota, which
is the international honor society for counselors, Central Arizona REFORMA,
which is a division of American Library Association, and Glendale Community
"I have wanted to do this for the longest time," Ling said. "When I learned
about the grant and learned how to write grants, I jumped at the opportunity."
The program, which began in January, offers free health seminars conducted in
Spanish at the Glendale Public Library, 5959 W. Brown St.; the Velma Teague
Branch, 7010 N. 58th Ave.; and the Glendale Community Center, 5401 W. Ocotillo
Road. In addition, the project includes funds for developing a collection of
health books and other media in Spanish.
Ling, of Glendale, said programs like Operation Health Outreach are increasingly
necessary in areas with large Hispanic populations.
"The goal of the project is to increase public awareness of critical health
issues and to educate the public on available resources," she said, adding that
the seminars have already covered topics like osteoporosis, diabetes and heart
"We want as many people as are able to come to hear these important
presentations. We attempt to take the programs to the people rather than waiting
for them to come to us."
Because so much health-related information is available on the Internet,
Operation Health Outreach includes classes that teach basic computer skills.
"Some people learn best by listening to expert presentations, others like to
read books, and still others love to consult the Internet," Ling said, adding
that instructors will help attendees distinguish between a valid health site and
one that is filled with urban legends.
"We teach people to choose reliable sources of information from the Internet,
not just anything that's there. We also identify resources available in Spanish,
which is limited but getting better."
Ling, who recently received a $32,000 grant from the Library Services and
Technology Act to continue the program for an additional six months, as well as
expand it into the Asian community, said she is thrilled by the way the program
is going so far.
Ling said attendance is good and the audience members are giving positive
feedback. Best of all, she said, many told her how much they have learned from
the bilingual lectures.
"I love to see the target audience enthused and reap the benefit from our work,"
Richard Herbig, a clinician and professor of psychology at Northern Arizona
University, Western International University and Paradise Valley Community
College, conducted a workshop on depression last month. By using a translator,
he was able to teach, answer questions and give handouts to the audience.
"I was struck by two things," the Phoenix resident said. "One was the
attendance; we got quite a sizable turnout. Secondly, they were very involved in
the content, and most came with important agendas of their own, which I could
tell through their questions and their attentiveness."
Based on the enthusiastic reaction to his workshop, Herbig said, there is
obviously a true need for bilingual health programs.
"Clearly, from some who shared their plight, there's clearly a need for this
knowledge," he said. "Right from the beginning there was a certain amount of
Candido Abeyta, 70, said he has enjoyed attending the Operation Health Outreach
"They have been wonderful," the Glendale resident said.
Abeyta said he thinks offering the seminars in Spanish is especially useful for
elderly Hispanics who have not had the chance to learn much English.