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Building Capacity to Address Women's Health Issues in the Mixtec and Zapotec Community

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Introduction: Mixtecs and Zapotecs are indigenous populations from Mexico. Many are unable to read and write, and speak only their native nonwritten languages, Mixteco and Zapoteco. About one-half of California's indigenous farm worker population is estimated to be Mixteco-speaking (82,000-125,000), and about 20,000 Mixtecs and a smaller number of Zapotecs live in Ventura County. Objectives: A community-academic partnership conducted mixed-methods research with the aims of 1) collecting preliminary data on women's health needs, 2) training promotoras to assist with this effort, and 3) engaging community members and obtaining their input through community dialogues. Methods: Promotoras who were bilingual in Spanish and either Mixteco or Zapoteco were trained to conduct surveys that included questions on breast feeding and receipt of breast and cervical cancer screening examinations. Barriers to and facilitators of women obtaining these cancer screening tests were discussed in small groups. Results: In 2013, 813 Mixtec and Zapotec women completed surveys. Although most women reported breast feeding (94%), and receipt of a pelvic examination (85%) and a breast examination (72%), only 44% of women 40years and older had ever heard of and 33% had ever had a mammogram. Community members recommended offering free mammograms on the weekend by female providers, having women accompanied by promotoras who can translate, conducting door-to-door outreach, advertising cancer screening on the radio and providing small incentives to women. Discussion: Trained bilingual promotoras can assist in increasing the capacity of indigenous communities to conduct collaborative research by engaging community members and collecting local data.

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