By Juan Carlos Vega, Guest Blogger
Reporting from Washington, DC
Choo Choo!!! For the last year, the CDC funded National LGBT and Latino Tobacco Control Networks have been engaging the LGBT community in Puerto Rico. However, much more is needed to move LGBT health to the forefront. That is one of the reasons why I am in Washington, D.C. for several weeks. I came to learn from others on the ground on how to engage folks so I can return to the island with an overload of information, resources, and opportunities to share with my community back home.
From October 22-24, I participated in the 3-day training Community Organizing: Building Base, Building Power, part of the Praxis Project Learning Circle Series that have engaged hundreds of groups and individuals doing grassroots advocacy and organizing. During the many group exercises, I chose to be part of the health justice subgroup. Based on a Planning Template, the subgroups developed an issue by setting goals, identifying resources and research needed, strategies to approach the work, and concrete action planning steps to develop the work in the next 90 days, 6 months, and a year. With the guiding light from a pair of young Latina/o organizers from New Mexico and California, I was able to organize concrete ideas to move forward.
From the community level, I jumped to the national arena by attending the National Coalition for LGBT Health Annual Meeting. While there I shared the work that we are doing back home and the struggles we face. I was able to identify possible funding sources and technical assistance providers to help us develop health issues among the LGBT community of Puerto Rico.
The icing on the cake was the Training of Trainers that Dr. Elba C. Díaz-Toro, Associate Professor at the University of Puerto Rico and this blogger received by the National LGBT Tobacco Control Network. The training was provided to ensure the inclusion of LGBT sensibilities and perspectives in the upcoming healthcare provider trainings to take place next year all across the Island. We had an open conversation with the Network’s Scout and Gustavo Torrez on clinical and community approaches to engage healthcare professionals in Puerto Rico regarding LGBT health. Just as exciting is the possibility of having a summit on LGBT wellness in Puerto Rico next year. This will bring together U.S. and Island healthcare professionals to discuss and explore issues on LGBT health.
The train has been set in motion to bring an LGBT perspective to the pubic health agenda in Puerto Rico. Everything that we are learning … and translating into Spanish … can be used, adapted, and implemented not only in other LGBT Latino/a communities in the U.S. but in other Latin American countries.
DC is getting cold by the minute and I need my 80-degree weather back home. Are we there yet? Choo Choo!!!