The Hispanic Health Initiatives Inc. reaches out to the community during a health fair at Gold's Gym in Dr. Phillips. (Photo by Michael Freeman).
CASSELBERRY – It’s called the Hispanic Health Initiatives Inc., but it’s a service available to anyone in the Central Florida region, regardless of their race or ethnicity.
And for the past 12 years, this program with an office in Casselberry has been available to help anyone who is in need of health care, but doesn’t have the insurance to pay for it.
“We’re a non-profit, and we help out the community,” said Norma G. Novillo, who works at the agency that operates out of 201 Live Oaks Boulevard in Casselberry.
Their mission is to let people know that if they don’t have health care coverage and they’re scared and worried about their future, there is help out there. Hispanic Health Initiatives can direct them to it.
As the agency’s Web site notes, their mission is “to educate and connect medically under-served families with health education and services available to them in their areas,” by connecting them with programs that assist those without insurance or who are under-insured.
Incorporated in June 2000, HHI is now a 501(c)3 community-based organization, and the only Hispanic health agency in Central Florida specifically targeting the Hispanic community.
Although founded by a group of Hispanic community activists, “We help out the community in general,” Novillo said. “We target all communities.”
They start by letting residents know where services are available to those who don’t have medical coverage.
“We just guide them,” she said. “We find places for them to go.”
But they also offer programs of their own.
At a time when the national recession and high unemployment has left many families without health care, HHI provides health forums, health fairs, health classes, screening events and referrals for free or low cost mammograms, paps and other health services.
HHI’s programs also teach preventive medicine, disease management and behavioral changes designed to promote healthy lifestyles.
“We bring them into the office in Casselberry and we have a program where we teach them about healthy living,” Novillo said. “We sit them down with doctors who come into our office.”
These programs, which are free, include regular “Taking Care of My Health” classes that teach people about how to avoid chronic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and hypertension.
“We offer courses on how to prevent diabetes,” she said. “We teach them about low blood sugar, and we have a very good program for that. Obesity is an epidemic. We teach them to eat better. Diabetes is a big issue in the Spanish community. It’s their number one health problem. But it’s not only Hispanics. It’s a whole lot of people who are coming down with diabetes.”
They also offer workshops on nutrition — how to read nutritional labels, how to set the right portions for their meals, and advice on the types of food people should be eating to stay healthy. They also give the participants an opportunity to visit a local supermarket and put into practice what they just learned.
There’s also a workshop on how to stay fit at home, without the need to join a gym, and how to exercise regularly.
“We also have a program for men’s health,” Novillo said.
Taking Care of my Health is offered on the first Friday of every month, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Available for free at these events are screenings for blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol and vision.
Those who need to sign up for the federal Medicaid program, or who require cash assistance or food stamps, can speak with an ACCESS specialist at these events.
These services are designed to empower individuals to make informed and responsible decisions about their health.
HHI’s board of directors include Hispanic professionals and community leaders, and the agency services Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Volusia, Hillsboro, Lake and Polk counties.
To learn more, call 407-339-2001 or 1-866-377-2583, or email INFO@HHI2001.ORG
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