Q&A with Alejandra Gepp
June 23, 2017 | Chicago, IL
We recently spoke with Alejandra Gepp, Associate Director of the Institute for Hispanic Health at National Council of La Raza (NCLR). Erie House is a proud NCLR affiliate member and added Comprando Rico y Sano, an initiative of NCLR and the Walmart Foundation, to its Health and Leadership Program in 2017.
How long have you been working for NCLR and what do you appreciate most about the organization?
I’ve been working for National Council of La Raza Institute for Hispanic Health for 12 years. What I like about working with the organization—especially as a team member for the Institute for Hispanic Health—is that we design culturally competent education programs to reduce health disparities in vulnerable communities.
Why is health a priority for NCLR?
Health is very important to NCLR’s mission to create equal opportunities for Hispanic Americans. Because a disproportionate number of Latinos are affected by hunger and chronic diseases, ensuring better nutrition for lifelong health—fighting for lifelong health—and protecting and defending our healthcare system are crucial to building a healthier Latino community. We support policies and develop programs to help Latinos lead healthy lives, no matter where they live or what their circumstances are.
A disproportionate number of Latinos are affected by hunger and chronic diseases. We support policies and develop programs to help Latinos lead healthy lives, no matter where they live or what their circumstances are.
What role do affiliate members play for NCLR's Institute for Hispanic Health?
We partner with affiliate organizations to promote healthy eating and reduce hunger, for example, and connect people to services in the Latino community. Our affiliate network is at the core of our effort at the local level, and our affiliate members offer a very important voice for what communities are experiencing around the country, whether it’s nutrition, physical activity, or articulating how the social determinants of health are affecting communities. We have around 250 affiliate members across the country, and their work is critical to our mission.
Let’s talk about Comprando Rico y Sano. Tell us more about the program.
Comprando Rico y Sano is a promotor de salud—or community health worker—led program which was designed in 2010 to help Latino communities become better grocery shoppers and maximize their resources. With the support and generous contribution of the Walmart Foundation, NCLR now works with 28 community-based organizations around the country. We have added a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) education and enrollment component to the program effort and educate our affiliates on how to use media to expand the reach of the program.
Last year, we worked with 20 organizations to reach 6.5 million Latinos with nutrition and SNAP enrollment messages using traditional and social media. Over 70,000 Latinos received face-to-face nutrition education and SNAP information. Over 25,000 individuals enrolled in SNAP. The program’s impact is well felt around the country, and our promotores de salud provide culturally competent resources and linguistically appropriate information to the Latino community.
Comprando Rico y Sano has been successful thanks to its comprehensive approach. It’s not only about educating the community about healthy eating, grocery shopping and physical activity; it is also providing hands-on activities for participants to apply their newfound knowledge. And through SNAP enrollment assistance, Comprando Rico y Sano has contributed to reducing food insecurity, increasing access to nutritious food and improving purchasing power.
This conversation was edited for brevity and clarity.