And then there were a hundred!!!

We have posted our 100th blog article and we want to take a moment to thank all of our followers! The Institute for Hispanic Health Equity has been blogging for the past year with the intention of raising awareness and discussion on bridging the gap in health disparities throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. A big thank you to all our readers and followers for helping us spread the word!

In case you missed them, here are the top ten most popular articles as of today:

Please scroll bellow and take a look at what our followers are saying too…
THANK YOU!

Window displays for thoughts!

In order to understand that we all are equal one has to start by realizing that we all are different…

Pro Infirmis, a Swiss charity organization, marked this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities with an awe inspiring campaign designed to capture the attention of the passersby in one of the main shopping streets in Zurich. Using window displays to communicate their message, they crafted mannequins that perfectly reflect the bodies of individuals that suffer from scoliosis, have shortened limbs or are wheelchair bound. The invitation of this 4 minute short story is simple.. Get closer. Because who is perfect?” 
Written By: Gustavo Adolfo

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What keeps nerds awake at night …

Is it the existence of the Higgs boson? (sometimes). Is it the physics behind the death of Spiderman’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy? (this is the case for many nerds, but not for me). No, it’s the July Atlantic article on governmental use (or non-use) of program evaluation findings in program funding.  Written by John Bridgeland and Perer Orszag, two fellows who have worked under the administrations of Barack Obama and George W. Bush, this article ponders whether our current financial situation (squeezing social programs) could lead us to utilize Evidence! to lead to more efficient and effective programs for the country.  Such was the story of the Oakland A’s, for those unfamiliar with Moneyball, (the film, book, and baseball lexicon). Being in a tight financial spot, the A’s general manager hired a statistician to use player data to build the team roster, rather than scouts’ traditional belief. Did they win the World Series? (SPOILER ALERT!) No. But they did a lot better than everyone expected.

So the question is, can the government do a lot better than everyone expects?  Bridgeland and Orszag don’t really come to a conclusion on that, but they provide a lot of case studies of how the government has put money, time, and human resources into evaluation with mixed results.

Observation 1: Lack of funding for evaluation.  If this surprises you, I’m not sure you have been paying attention.  In my experience working with community organizations, health departments, and churches, minimal resources are available for carrying out meaningful evaluation.  This doesn’t mean we don’t want to have rigorous evaluations; in fact, much of what I hear is that people want to know if what they are doing is working.  They want to know that their work is making a difference.  As the authors note “less than $1 out of every $1,000 that the government spends on healthcare this year will go toward evaluating whether the other $999-plus actually works.” We are making grand changes on our health systems, and it will be a challenge to know what is working.

Observation 2: There are people in government and other relevant entities that are dedicated to using data for funding decision-making. Again, we see this every day in our interactions with various grant administrators, and from listening to the organizations we serve in almost all 50 states now.  Many are supportive and require purposeful examination of program data.  Not just how many people came to your groups or got tested, but what types of changes likely resulted of your program? How long do these changes last?  Under Bush, the Office of Management and Budget created and administered a Program Assessment Rating Tool, and assessed about 1,000 programs, including those addressing youth violence, teen pregnancy, nutrition, and school-readiness. That is commitment!  But…

Observation 3: Assessment results were pushed to the side by the decision makers – Congress.  Now, this is the most frustrating piece of information that can keep your nerd self awake at night. The authors give several examples of programs that the assessments showed were not performing, yet they continued to be funded because they were pet projects for congress members.

There are many reasons why all this would be frustrating to everyone, program participants who aren’t getting prepared for school, taxpayers who are paying for ineffective programs, and program staff who are working so hard to make a difference but their program design is ineffective (due to both internal and external factors alike) and needs real adjustment.

As a community based organization with a strong research and evaluation department, and a high value for using data for decision-making, this is clearly upsetting. We get mixed messages from our leaders in government. We are being told that data drives every decision. Yet we are seeing that politics can be the determining factor in whether programs get funded.  I see this as a call to action.  Social service organizations need to build up in two ways, evaluation and political relationships. We need to be aware that politics influence funding, and that will likely not go away. Play moneyball and build your network.  Will the government get smarter about evidence driven funding? Definitely.  While there will always be politics in funding, evidence is becoming more and more influential.  As government is taking cues from Hollywood, channeling Jerry Maguire may be our best bet: “Show me the data!” Or something like that.

Now it is your turn… tell us how you use data for decision-making in your work setting.

Written by: Emily Klukas

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Behind the Scenes! with Director Lisa Biagiotti on ‘deepsouth’

Tonight at the IFC Center in New York City, Lisa Biagiotti’s film ‘deepsouth‘ is screening as part of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival.  We had the opportunity to sit down with deepsouth’s director, Lisa Biagiotti, back in July 2013 and talk about her experiences documenting this often hidden epidemic in the south, as well as her thoughts the film as a tool for community based organizations fighting the formidable adversaries of stigma, discrimination and homophobia. Below we have a few snippets of the conversation we wanted to share.

Lisa Biagiotti (LB): Going back to using the film as a tool, we were talking about capacity building and using stories as a way to do that… what I see missing in the whole landscape of statistics and reports and more data and more scientific research was actually the experience of what it’s like to be affected by HIV in the south. So [in the film], stylistically and structurally we don’t have expert interviews, we don’t have statistics, we don’t even have calls to action because really, this is just about wanting to show the fragility of the system across the south… What was missing in this whole picture was actually the stories. Oftentimes when journalists come in, they’ll tell stories through old templates, so you’ll notice things like the anecdotal lead with someone who is in infected… then we dive into the statistics and talk about what the statistics show, and then we end with something about this person and how they’re coping and how they have become an activist for the cause. I looked around at how HIV was being reported and it was the most tired topic [the way it was being covered].

Emily Klukas of the Latino Commission on AIDS (EK): In an interview with POZ magazine, you said “the issues that drive HIV seemed to be much more entrenched than I first thought. Searching for HIV in the South was like using my GPS to find fragile communities.” Can you say a little more about this?

LB: When I say HIV is my GPS to really fragile places in our country, what that means is that when I find high rates of HIV I find high rates of a lot of social ills: high teen pregnancy rates, high incarceration rates high STD rates, high school dropout rates, so you see that something is going on in this environment, and that’s what deep south is about, a look at the environmental risks of an infectious disease. We try to reframe how we think about HIV to match what is really going on.

EK: I want to get back to talking about activism. I know you have training as a journalist, and as an artist and a filmmaker, how do you see yourself in these terms?
LB: I do consider myself a journalist; I don’t consider myself an activist. I think that what I’ve been trying to do is chronically experience what it’s like to be affected by HIV in an area where there are few resources and a lot of great solutions and a lot of patchwork solutions. I’ve been asked that

actually in journalism settings; [people say] “this is an activist type of film” and I actually don’t think it is, it actually doesn’t say anything…the only thing I think you can get out of this “huh, something’s kinda going on in the deep south that doesn’t seem right.”… There’s really no call to action, and [in hearing the discussions around the film] I was so heartened by the researchers and the advocates and professionals in the room who dedicate their lives to this, and how they were embracing the film as well, but I don’t think it’s a clarion call forward. The only thing it might be is a wake-up call to the actual reality of what’s going on.

EK: In terms of the HIV field, there’s a lot of talk about the biomedical side lately. Of course you can’t have the biomedical without the behavioral. But what isn’t being said, I think, is this structural and environment stuff. We’re talking about behavior and medicine, these are all individual level things, and interpersonal with your provider. But there’s this whole environment that people live in every single day and I think what I really love about your film is this beautiful and subtle way of looking at the whole thing at once. In research we deconstruct, and take thing apart in bits and pieces, and there’s definitely a benefit to this… but the world doesn’t work like that, the world works in this array, with all these moving pieces influencing each other and so I think that’s one aspect of your film I really appreciate.

Come to view the film tonight at the IFC at 7pm!  For a preview of the film, you can visit http://www.deepsouthfilm.com

For more information on Latinos in the Deep South, a program of the Commission, please contact Erik Valera, evalera@latinoaids.org or Judith Montenegro, jmontenegro@latinoaids.org

Interview by Emily Klukas

Putting a spotlight on those living on the margins: The premiere of ‘deepsouth’ documentary

Latinos in the Deep South congratulates Lisa Biagiotti for the premiere of her documentary deepsouth’ at New York’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival.  A poetic and grounding exploration into the lives of those affected by HIV in the American South, the film will be presented Saturday June 15 7:00 p.m., IFC Center with an encore presentation Monday June 17 7:00 p.m., IFC Center .

The film follows three stories; one featuring Joshua Alexander, a college student, as he seeks the support of an underground gay family miles away from his suffocating Mississippi Delta hometown. Another story follows Monica Johnson and Tamela King who, with no funds and few resources, try tirelessly to unite reluctant participants at their annual HIV retreat in rural Louisiana. Finally, Kathie Hiers, an Alabama activist, spends 120 days a year on the road fighting a bureaucracy that continues to ignore the South.  The cast will be available on both nights to discuss the film and the structural issues encountered living in the south.

For over 30 years, the global epidemic has overshadowed the fight at home, where HIV has never looked like this before. Biagiotti calls attention to the resilience of those affected by the epidemic in the midst of high unemployment, poverty, discrimination, lack of educational opportunities, homophobia, and too few health care resources.  Biagotti’s film challenges the audience to look for more coordinated efforts with holistic and proactive approaches to end AIDS in the South. “We are all needed to contribute to the national discussion around developing culturally responsive programs that address structural challenges, and at the same time engaging and retaining patients with HIV in comprehensive and continuous care,” said Dr. Miriam Y. Vega, Vice President of the Latino Commission on AIDS

The South is home to nearly half of all new HIV diagnoses in the United States, and has death rates from AIDS that are much higher than the national average. Human Rights Watch has documented the harmful and misguided laws and policies that in many southern states fuel the epidemic and disproportionately affects African American and Latino communities. Human Rights Watch reports from Mississippi, North Carolina, and other southern states highlight the voices of people living with HIV and their families, and their daily struggle to survive.

The New York premiere is presented in association with Housing Works and Latino Commission on AIDS, to buy tickets in advance click here.

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Latinos in the Deep South is a program coordinated by the Latino Commission on AIDS that aims to build local leadership, develop networks and coalitions, enhance knowledge and cultural competency, and spur actions to address the needs of the emerging Latino/Hispanic populations in the Deep South. The program accomplishes these goals through capacity building, community organizing, leadership development and networking initiatives, with a focus on community-based participatory research and information dissemination.