July 20, 2015

In July, the Washington state legislature, as part of its biennium operating budget, approved $500,000 to support the School of Social Work-affiliated Latino Center for Health. The funds will be used to advance research and improve practices that help close the gap in health outcomes for a growing but underserved community. The center is the first of its kind in the state to focus on the health needs of Latinos, who account for 12 percent of Washington state’s population, but who lack access to critical health services for chronic diseases and social stressors as well as bilingual and bi-cultural service providers.

“We are delighted that the Latino Center for Health has received state funding,” says University of Washington Interim President Ana Gino AisenbergMari Cauce. “The center provides invaluable leadership to improve access and utilization of health care services including preventive health care and mental health services.” Social work professor and center co-director Gino Aisenberg (pictured, right) explained that the center's research will focus on Latino physical health, mental health, environmental and occupational health, and violence and injury prevention.

Edwina S. Uehara, dean of the School of Social Work, added her praise for the group: “The center is a shining example of how UW research and collaboration empowers local communities to address critical issues of health care access and equity in our state.”

Leo Morales, the center’s co-director and UW affiliate professor in public health, stated that: “by bringing together faculty from a variety of backgrounds to conduct community-engaged research we aim to develop evidence-based practices to improve the conditions and delivery of healthcare for Latino patients.”
The center’s commitment to the state’s Latino community has also attracted the attention of Washington state lawmakers such as Rep. Brady Walkinshaw, a Democrat from Seattle and a Cuban American. “As many parts of our state benefit from economic growth and prosperity, the center will work to curb health disparities facing the Latino community, and ultimately our state as a whole,” observed the state legislator.

The Latino Center for Health was launched in April 2014 to promote the health and well-being of Washington state’s Latino population through community-engaged research, student and faculty training, and policy analysis. The School of Social Work, the Graduate School and the School of Medicine provided initial seed money for the center, which collaborates with the University of Washington's health sciences schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, public health and social work.