October 21, 2005

Salud! A Thanks for Good Health

By Eduardo Grunvald, M.D.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner. A holiday that is not celebrated anywhere south of the border. Yet most Latinos in this country embrace it. Sure . . . everyone likes extra time off from work, but it is also an opportunity to spend priceless time with our families, a value that is especially cherished in the Latino culture. And so is health. What do we say in unison as we lift our wine glasses before savoring the turkey? “Salud!”

Just as the name of the holiday implies, we should all give thanks for good health. But what can you do as an individual, a family, a neighborhood, and a community to facilitate physical and mental well-being? Through a series of articles, I want to simplify complicated and confusing medical information and become a trustworthy source for you. I will try to break things down into simple steps that you can take to improve and protect your health and maintain your well being. Whether it is preventative medicine, nutrition, lifestyle choices, technological breakthroughs, or alternative methods of healing, my goal is to condense masses of information and data into simple language, and discuss how it affects the Latino community in our region. 

Allow me to introduce myself. I was born in Uruguay, immigrated to the United States at a young age, and was educated in such diverse places as Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. After receiving my medical degree from the University of Washington in Seattle, I migrated south to warmer and drier days to do my internship and residency in Internal Medicine at the University of California, San Diego. I am currently a primary care provider at the Perlman Ambulatory Care Center of UCSD Medical Center. As a professor of medicine, I am actively involved in the teaching and training of medical students and residents. I also work at Logan Heights Family Health Centers, where I encounter first hand many of the health challenges that face Latino patients in San Diego and elsewhere.

I hope to cover multiple issues in my columns and place an extra emphasis on those that affect the Hispanic community. For example, did you know that up to twenty-five percent of Mexican-Americans older than forty-five in the United States have diabetes? It’s amazing, but some of them do not even know it. Why do so many Latinos forego regular preventative checkups? Which few simple symptoms can you recognize that can save your life? What resources are available to the Hispanic community in San Diego if one does not have insurance? What do you do if you are an undocumented immigrant? For women, did you know there may be a vaccine released next year that may prevent cancer of the cervix? Forthcoming columns will include discussion about diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease, screening for various cancers, obesity, access to health care, the rising cost of health care, and ethical and political issues such as stem cell research. These are issues that face the Latino community today and our shared cultural background may allow me to provide you with insights and unique perspectives on what we can do together to address them.

Part of my motivation for this column is that I often find it frustrating not being able to  educate my patients fully, with attention to individual details, because of limited face time in the office. That is, after all, why I became a primary care provider. My hope is that through this column I will reach a high volume of people and make a difference by raising awareness about issues and encouraging those who need it to seek care. Hopefully you will find our discussions interesting enough to continue them around the dinner table with your family. ¡Buen provecho!

Dr. Grunvald, M.D. is Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Medicine at the Perlman Internal Medicine Group, UCSD Medical Center.

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