Opinion: Acculturation Does Not Mean Adopting Poor Eating Habits

Former Miss Universe Dayana Mendoza, shown on the cover of El Correo de Queens, has dedicated her fame to casting light on the problem of HIV/AIDS.

This editorial, translated from El Correo de Queens, warns Latinos that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure:

Illnesses remain the scourge of the Hispanic populace in this country.  Afflictions like hepatitis, hypertension and diabetes, to name a few, affect Latinos disproportionately.

Among the causes, poor nourishment, lack of exercise and genetic tendencies are often mentioned.  But there is another factor of equal importance to those mentioned above, and that is the lack of preventive medicine.

In spite of the major campaigns by the Spanish media promoting education about and prevention of the illnesses most common among the Hispanic community, we continue to note a lack of consciousness among minorities about preventive medicine.

Even though in many cases we can blame this fact on a lack of health insurance and on the inaccessibility of the information, we cannot deny that our Latino culture is resistant to the concept of prevention.  We refuse to go to the doctor for check-ups to detect diseases in the early stages, and go only when symptoms arise and the disease is already advanced.

Immigration status also keeps many immigrants from resorting to medical attention until it is too late, due to their fear that they might be deported.

Well into the 21st century now, health must no longer be considered a privilege.  Health is an essential human right, regardless of race, gender, culture, or social status.  In support of this right, the work of artists, singers and public figures who lend their images to efforts that help raise Spanish-speakers’ awareness of the importance of health care is most commendable.  The woman pictured on page one of this issue, Dayana Mendoza, has dedicated her popularity since her reign as Miss Universe to casting light on the problem of HIV/AIDS, which also has, unfortunately, an extremely grave effect on Latinos.

Nevertheless, all the campaigns in the world cannot by themselves change people’s thinking.  It is up to us to make the changes which improve not only our own health but also the health of our loved ones.  As we become acculturated [to US society] we can lose sight of many of our dietary customs and traditions in favor of “fast food.”  Industrial or junk food, although it is cheaper, brings with it in the long run much more expensive health problems.

Acculturation does not mean adopting poor eating habits.  Adopting a new culture is beneficial when it is for learning a new language, knowing and abiding by the social rules of this nation, and focusing on gaining a better quality of life.  Through good nourishment, exercise, and preventive medicine, we can make the difference between health and illness.

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