Topeka non-profit, Washburn University educating immigrant community on health, wellness

Local News

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — A Topeka non-profit and Washburn University are teaming up to bring health care education to the Latino community in Topeka, helping people understand their health a little better.

El Centro of Topeka has become a resource for people to live the American dream. But not for everyone, it’s for immigrants looking to start a new life right here in Topeka.

“We’re not here simply to serve,” Lalo Munoz said, the executive director of El Centro of Topeka. “But we’re here to walk together with these families.”

El Centro of Topeka is a non-profit organization promoting justice and equal treatment in employment, housing and any other area for the Latino community. They’ve been doing this work since 1972 in the Oakland neighborhood.

“One of the important things that we want to do is work to welcome newcomers, that help them turn into neighbors,” Munoz said.

Healthy neighbors, another key to their mission. With the help of a van working to educate those who don’t have access to health care in the city.

In 2012, Kathy Ure from the Washburn University School of Nursing wanted to help her students connect better with the communities they may serve one day. She reached out to Munoz and presented the C.O.A.C.H Program.

“It stands for collaborative outreach advancing community health,” Ure said.

C.O.A.C.H is a way to give students hands-on learning and diversity training, while also seeing exactly what people need.

“We want to look at communities that maybe don’t have the services as readily available to them,” Ure said. “And the Latino population in our communities was one of those populations.”

When it first started, El Centro clients wanted to learn more about the health challenges they were living with.

“We need education around our chronic diseases,” Ure recalled clients wanted to know when the program was presented. “Many of us have chronic diseases, but we don’t know how to live with those chronic diseases. That began our relationship between El Centro and Washburn as a whole. But out of the Washburn school of nursing.”

So they brought the education straight to them with a van that’s both a clinic and an area to teach.

“Our clients are able to receive basic preventative health screenings to make sure they either stay healthy,” Munoz said. “Or if they have medical issues that they educate themselves about what that means to learn and create a plan of care that takes small steps toward big changes in the future.”

With the help of two organizations partnering together, immigrants looking for the American dream in Topeka can get the support they are looking for, helping make Topeka a better place in the future.

“The work that we do creates an inclusive community that makes sure immigrant families have a place and are wanted,” Munoz said.

Because of coronavirus, C.O.A.C.H. isn’t able to hit the roads. However, they’re continuing teaching efforts virtually, now focusing on coronavirus education as well.

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