Advocates and community health organizations across the United States say the lack of clear and accurate Spanish-language information about the coronavirus outbreak is leading to misinformation about the public health crisis in Latinx communities.
Journalist Julio Ricardo Varela recently detailed how the official websites for the White House and Centers for Disease Control either lacked pages that detailed the official government guidelines about the virus in Spanish or featured translated information that was several days out of date. (Several of the pages were later updated after Varela queried government officials.)
The lack of Spanish language resources about the virus means that many community members are getting information about the outbreak that is false or even harmful, Rita Carreon, the Deputy Vice President of Health of UnidosUS, told Supermajority News. UnidosUS recently surveyed its over 200 affiliates about how organizations could best support community members. Many responded that conflicting messages about the virus were leading to widespread confusion and misinformation, especially on social media.
“There is a lot [of misinformation] about how [the virus] is being spread,” as well as recipes for ineffective homemade remedies, said Carreon, adding “ that there is an immediate need to develop simple, educational materials that are for Spanish speakers so that we can combat those competing messages.”
Carreon also stressed that materials about the virus for the Latinx community should be culturally relevant in addition to written in Spanish — and by “culturally relevant,” Carreon says she means “what do different messages look like for different communities?”
Since many Latinos are on the frontlines of the virus because of their jobs in the food service and grocery store industries, many do not have the option of working from home, which means that typical social distancing messaging is not practical for them. “What do those messages look like for different communities? How do you protect your family?” asked Carreon. “If you are expected to do social isolation, how can you do that if you are still expected to go to work?”
While the current health emergency is an extreme and unprecedented situation, Carreon notes that it also sheds light on the public health disparities that have always existed in the United States. “It has really exposed the long term inequities in terms of access to our healthcare and financial systems,” she said. These disparities include the fact that Latinos are more likely to be uninsured than white Americans and are less likely to have paid sick leave.
UnidosUS is one of several Latino organizations that have been creating online resources related to coronavirus for Spanish speaking communities in the US, with the organization’s homepage features up to date health guidance in both English and Spanish. The organization and its affiliates are also utilizing Facebook and WhatsApp groups to make sure that the most up-to-date information is being sent out to users.