Health in Her HUE

Co-Founder Ashlee Wisdom shares how Health in Her HUE is closing the gap on racial health disparities

Health In Her HUE is a digital platform that connects Black women and women of color to culturally competent and sensitive healthcare providers, and offers health information and content that centers their lived experiences.

Health in Her HUE Co-Founder, Eddwina Bright. (Photo via Health in Her HUE)

Co-founded by Ashlee Wisdom and Eddwina Bright, Health in Her HUE started as a health app and has now transitioned from app to a full digital platform. Their mission is to reduce racial health disparities by leveraging the power of technology, media and community to improve health outcomes for Black women and women of color.

They are achieving this by bringing awareness to health and wellness issues in a relevant, engaging and accessible way while empowering women of color, and their allies, to share, learn and innovate around the health issues that disproportionately affect them.

Co-founder Ashlee Wisdom started building Health in Her Hue while she was an MPH student at New York University. 

In an article with Very Well Health, she shares, “I kept reading papers for different classes and seeing across the board the poor health outcomes that exist for Black women. I remember feeling really privileged to have this heightened awareness as a Black woman about health disparities. If I wasn’t sitting in this classroom, I wasn’t sure I would really be as aware of these issues. So I wanted to take information out of the ivory tower and make it more accessible and actionable for everyday Black women.”

The other part of her story that pushed Ashlee to create Health in Her HUE were her own experiences. While working in a very toxic work environment, Ashlee began breaking out in chronic hives. She saw an allergist—who happened to be a white woman—but her doctor could not determine the cause of the hives, despite numerous tests. 

Health in Her HUE

Health in Her HUE Co-Founder, Ashlee Wisdom. (Photo via Health in Her HUE)

“It never dawned on me to share with her like, ‘Hey, I’m working in this really racist environment and it’s toxic.’ I didn’t feel like she would be able to relate or even understand. When I left the toxic job, the hives stopped. I realized that the hives were being triggered by the stress that I was experiencing,” says Ashlee

Reflecting on that experience, Ashlee realized she communicated differently in her interactions with her Black gynecologist compared to how she communicated with her White allergist. 

“If I shared more with her about what was going on, she would have been able to get to the root cause of what was triggering the hives, as opposed to just telling me to take two Allegra every day to keep them contained.”

This feeling of miscommunication is something many women of color experience when it comes to healthcare. In a post on Instagram celebrating Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler’s birthday—the first black women physician in the US, Health in Her HUE write: 

“Diversity and cultural competency in medicine matters to patients. Research shows, across all races, patients are more likely to be satisfied with their care when their doctors look like them. But only 5% of the country’s doctors are Black, compared with 13% of the U.S. population and only 36% of doctors are women of any race.

The good news is that, between 1940 and 2018, the percentage of Black women physicians has increased by 2.7 percentage points. And medical schools say the number of first year Black students in the U.S. is way up – 21%, an unprecedented spike.”

You might be interested: Silvia Posada, Senior Vice President of Network & Growth at Essen shares why we need Latinas in healthcare

Working to close that gap and improve the experiences of women of color is ultimately what pushed Ashlee to move forward with creating Health in Her HUE. 

“I figured if no one else is building a solution to support Black women and women of color for navigating this healthcare system that really wasn’t designed for us, then I want to build something to help us.”

Today, the Health in Her HUE site provides a variety of resources—from helping women of color find culturally sensitive healthcare providers to digital content on various health issues that educates how they affect women of color. 

“We get lots of messages from both patients and providers who tell us that they’re really grateful about what we built because they’ve been able to make really meaningful connections and have had improved experiences with providers,” says Ashlee. “Those are some of the life-changing connections that we’ve been able to make and want to be able to continue to do so.”

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About Health in Her HUE’s Founders

Ashlee Wisdom is a public health innovator committed to achieving a more equitable healthcare ecosystem where all people can access the quality care they need and deserve. Wisdom received her BS from Howard University, and her Master of Public Health from New York University. She was named a 2021 Top 50 in digital health by Rock Health for her health equity advocacy.

Eddwina Bright is a strategic executor with a background in operations, process improvement, product development & management and finance. She is passionate about leveraging her experience to build companies from the ground-up. Eddwina received her AS from Baltimore City Community College where she graduated as Valedictorian of her class, her BS from Morgan State University, and her MBA from Columbia Business School.

Silvia Posada, Senior Vice President of Network & Growth at Essen shares why we need Latinas in healthcare

Silvia Posada, is a Latina healthcare professional currently serving as the Senior Vice President of Network & Growth at Essen Health Care, the largest privately-held multi-specialty medical group in New York City.

For the last 20 years, Silvia has worked in the healthcare industry to help others find the right access to care and health resources. 

Latina healthcare professional, Silvia Posada, Senior Vice President of Network & Growth at Essen Health Care. (Photo courtesy of Silvia Posada)

As a Colombian-born immigrant, she moved to New York City at 11 years old. Both her parents were immigrants and the family came to the US seeking better opportunities. 

Living in New York City for most of her life, Silvia has seen beyond the glamorous high-end stores and restaurants where large pockets of first and second-generation immigrants struggle everyday to make it in the city. 

 “As wealthy as many areas are, NYC is also the home of the Bronx which is the poorest Congressional district in all of the US,” says Silvia. 

Due to her experiences as an immigrant and child of immigrants, she is passionate and committed to helping people understand the healthcare resources available to them. 

“Being an immigrant myself, I know there is a huge educational piece that goes along with this. I am an ambassador for Social Determinants of Health and know these lower-income communities are unable to prioritize their health and wellbeing. My goal throughout my career is to make sure people know they have access to health insurance and preventative care.” 

According to the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, “Latinos still have the highest rates of uninsurance when compared to other groups in the U.S. Additionally, there continues to be a deficit of healthcare providers who understand the cultural and linguistic needs of diverse communities, which may contribute to miscommunication and poorer health outcomes.” 

Addressing these barriers is crucial to ensuring Latinos and other immigrant and minority populations receive access to equitable healthcare. These barriers are another reason why it is so important to have Latinas represented in the healthcare industry. Immigrants like Silvia bring a unique perspective to the field as well as cultural knowledge and language skills that can help reach immigrants in need of assistance when making healthcare decisions. 

Latina healthcare

Essen Health Care is the largest privately-held multi-specialty medical group in New York City. (Photo courtesy of Silvia Posada)

“Unfortunately, in the business world and especially in the 90s/early 2000s just being a woman and Latina is a struggle,” says Silvia. “Being accepted as a creditable thought leader in a male-dominated industry was something I always had to fight for but I knew I was good at training and directing my teams to produce quality work and exceed targets, so eventually the results and outcomes ended up speaking for themselves.”

Throughout her career, Silvia has used her various leadership positions to support other women in healthcare, especially single mothers. As a single mother herself when she began her career, Silvia knows the challenges and also how driven and passionate single moms can be. 

“I was always driven to provide a good quality of life for my son and upon entering this field, I noticed a lot of my employees and colleagues were in similar situations, doing what they needed to do to provide for their families. This is when I realized that I needed to help and empower other immigrants and women learn more than just business but financial planning,” Silvia says. 

During team meetings, Silvia began leading discussions on life goals, financial planning, how to get out of debt and start investing, and more. 

Expand your financial planning knowledge with titles on Audible today!

Latina healthcare

Silvia with Essen Health Care colleagues. (Photo courtesy of Silvia Posada)

“Unfortunately, financial planning isn’t something that is taught in high school or colleges and we just expect people to figure these things out on their own, while already in a huge amount of debt due to schooling or other needs,” says Silvia. “I wanted to help them break the cycle of poverty or living paycheck to paycheck and start to create generational wealth, teaching them how to move forward.” 

In addition to providing financial planning education to her colleagues, Silvia found herself hiring more single mothers in her workforce as well. 

“On the surface during interviews that wasn’t the purpose for hiring them but I just noticed a special spark and drive in those candidates. After hiring and working with them I found out a majority happened to be single mothers,” she says. 

After realizing this, Silvia began adapting the way she trained them, helping them to translate the “love of a mother” into a successful career. 

“By tapping into their infinite love for their children and drive to make sure they had all their needs met resulted in a WIN for everyone.” 

Silvia with children at Essen Health Care event. (Photo courtesy of Silvia Posada)

Restructuring the way she trained and worked with her team led to continued success, exceeding their goals and targets and eventually making history in becoming the fastest and largest growing Medicare Advantage Plan in NYC, which continues to this day to be the largest health insurance in the city. 

You might be interested: How your employer can better support Latina and minority women in the workplace

Relying on her strengths as a risk-taker and problem solver throughout her career, Silvia encourages other Latinas and women to always be resilient and push forward. 

“Nothing will ever be perfect without trial and error and I encourage that in the workplace. If something doesn’t work out professionally, it’s ok! I know I will bounce back.”

Additionally, she advises women to remain strong in your convictions, vision, and passion. “Become your number one supporter and fan,” she says, “And don’t ever let anyone doubt your ability to succeed. Handle doubters with a mix of eloquence and assertiveness, and let your success pave the way for the many other women who will follow in your footsteps!”

*This article contains affiliated links. If you use these links to buy something we may earn a commission. 

cactus water

Latina entrepreneur Sarita Lopez shares cactus water health benefits with beverage line ¡CACTUS!  

Sarita Lopez grew up eating Nopales but didn’t truly appreciate their health benefits and rich history until she began farming and selling the paddles at local markets. Since then, she has created two cactus water lines in hopes of introducing the amazing health benefits of cactus water to more of the US. 

Sarita Lopez, founder of ¡CACTUS! (Photo courtesy of Sarita Lopez)

Sarita’s career in the beverage industry began when she moved to Austin, Texas after college and soon received a job at a large soda company. After seeing the difficulties of having a beverage business, she swore she would never start one of her own.

However, all of that changed after she moved back to her hometown of Napa, CA, to start an organic farm with her family.

On their farm, wild cactus paddles grew on their land and one day a worker suggested they harvest the paddles because of their popularity in the Latino and Hispanic market. 

“Growing up, I knew what Nopales were and ate them, but never knew about their history or healthy benefits. I began to research them and spoke to family and friends familiar with this particular cactus. When I found out how much goodness was packed inside the paddles, I began to incorporate them into my life,” Sarita says. 

“Within two weeks, the eczema that plagued me my whole life began to clear up and my digestion felt better than ever. I became driven to learn as much as I could about this ancient plant and spent hours exploring its nutritional marvel, moved by the many studies about its benefits and rich background.” 

Through her research, Sarita learned the fascinating cultural history surrounding the cactus plant and its uses in medicine and wellness. 

Just a few amazing cactus water health benefits

The Nopal cactus leaf contains antioxidants, betalains, electrolytes, amino acids – plus a uniquely powerful hydrocolloid that promotes absorption and retention in your body. For generations, Latin American healers called curanderos have recommended cactus leaf for colds, skin conditions, digestion and more. 

Today’s research shows components of cactus leaf may promote health benefits such as muscle recovery, combat free radicals and oxidative stress linked to inflammation, support cardio and skin health, and may even lessen the effects of hangovers.

Nopal cactus leaves contain many amazing health benefits and have been used for centuries in Latin American folk medicine. (Photo courtesy of Sarita Lopez)

“I began to sell cactus paddles, and customers raved of their benefits and features.” 

Then Sarita found out that most of her customers were juicing the Nopales and this sparked an idea. She decided to combine her worlds of beverage and farming and launched her first cactus water in 2017, “Green-Go” which later evolved and became ¡CACTUS!

Standing strong like a cactus in the face of challenges

Aside from her passion for cactus water and sharing its health benefits with people, another motivating factor to launch her business was her desire to honor her heritage and her family. 

“I watched my father, a Hispanic scientist, face racism in his work world and while living in Napa. I swore that if given the chance, I would create something of my own, just like my dad, to help combat the idea that the color of skin would and could not dictate a person’s path in life. I am fiercely proud of my heritage and love that I have a platform to speak about Nopales, a food that has been eaten for centuries by indigenous people whom I share blood with,” Sarita shares with Latinas in Business

Throughout her entrepreneurial journey, Sarita has also learned a lot. When she first started out, there was some stumbling as she navigated this new process. 

“It’s easy to spend too much money too quickly,” she says. “Looking back, I signed with top distributors and brokers too soon and sold in too many states for the profits to make sense. I now work with the Small Business Development Center and connected with a financial advisor who helped me create a strong budget with realistic projected expenses and sales. There is a lot of free help for small businesses. I also realized the benefit of creating a business plan. Numbers truly don’t lie!”

After launching her first cactus beverage line in 2017, she received some good press and attention, but by 2019 Sarita decided it was time to evolve her brand. 

Sarita rebranded her business just before the pandemic hit, yet her company was able to weather the storm and come out strong and resilient like a cactus. (Photo courtesy of Sarita Lopez)

“I started with the product. After much research and taste testing, I moved from one unsweetened, zero-calorie cactus water in aseptic cardboard to three popular organic flavors, each lightly sweetened with organic agave (5g sugar, 30 calories) and packaged in 12-ounce recyclable sleek cans. And I changed the brand name to ¡CACTUS! to more directly convey that our product is cactus water—important given the multitude of beverage products on store shelves.”

With a new look, name, and flavors 2020 started strong for Sarita and ¡CACTUS! Even the pandemic could not sway them. 

“Just like a cactus being able to survive some of the harshest elements on earth, our company survived 2020 and we are stronger because of it,” Sarita writes on her site

Today, Sarita continues to strive for success with her company, not just for herself but for all the people who have been part of her journey and believe in her company. 

“I want them to share in the riches as well. The old cliché is true – there is no “I” in “team!” Knowing that I can share my victories with the people who have been by my side since the beginning is what gets me out of bed, ready to start a new and beautiful day,” she says. 

To other Latinas and minority women entrepreneurs thinking of starting their own venture, Sarita “really, REALLY” recommends creating a business plan! 

“Figuring out your market, expenses and sales projections helps you make sure you are on track for success. Use as many free or not-so expensive resources as possible, such workshops and classes through your local Small Business Administration.” 

“Everyone has a great idea or two, but the ones that have a chance in making that dream come to life are those who put ideas into action!” 

National Nutrition Month

Balancing your Latina diet this National Nutrition Month®

Every food-loving Latina knows that the Latina diet has both pros and cons. With rich flavors and a variety of local produce, Latin American cuisine can certainly be very healthy. But sometimes we can also go a little overboard on the sweets, rich dairy products, and fatty meats. That’s why it’s important to focus on maintaining a balanced diet and National Nutrition Month® is the perfect time to get started on making some healthful changes to your diet. 

National Nutrition Month® is an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Originally started as National Nutrition Week in 1973, it was eventually inaugurated as National Nutrition Month®  in 1980.

Now, during the month of March, everyone is invited to learn about making informed food choices and developing healthful eating and physical activity habits.

National Nutrition Month

Celebrate a World of Flavors. (Graphic source: National Nutrition Month®)

This year’s theme, “Celebrate a World of Flavors,” showcases how flavors from cultures around the world is a tasty way to nourish ourselves and appreciate our diversity. We are all unique with different bodies, goals, backgrounds and tastes! And a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can tailor a healthful eating plan that is as special as you are.

“The theme Celebrate a World of Flavors gives every culture a place at the table,” said registered dietitian nutritionist Libby Mills, a national spokesperson for the Academy in Philadelphia, Pa. “Celebrating the cultural heritage, traditions and recipes from all people is a tasty way to nourish ourselves, learn about one another and find appreciation in our diversity.”

During National Nutrition Month®, the Academy encourages everyone to make informed food choices and develop sound eating and physical activity habits they can follow all year long. The Academy encourages seeking the advice of RDNs – the food and nutrition experts who can help develop individualized eating and activity plans to meet people’s health goals.

National Nutrition Month

Your favorite cultural foods can be part of a healthful eating plan!
Use these tips to choose foods that have vitamins, minerals, fiber and other important nutrients:

“Celebrate a World of Flavors highlights the unique, cultural variety of foods available to people from around the world and the role that registered dietitian nutritionist play in helping clients create healthy habits while celebrating their cultural foods and heritage,” said registered dietitian nutritionist Rahaf Al Bochi, a national spokesperson for the Academy in Baltimore, Md.

RDNs help clients fine-tune traditional recipes, provide alternative cooking methods and other healthful advice for incorporating family-favorite foods into everyday meals.

For more information and healthful tips, check out the resources provided by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics available in various languages including Spanish.

Balancing your Latina diet 

As Latinas, food is a big part of our culture. While many Latino dishes are full of healthy ingredients, it’s no secret that we love our carbs and dulces. Many Latin American dishes can also be heavy on fats such as whole-fat cheeses and fatty cuts of meat. Consuming too much of these foods in unbalanced proportions can lead to many health risks such as high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure, risk factors commonly found in Hispanic populations. 

However, there is no need to completely cut out the foods we love, but learning more about how to create a colorful, well-balanced plate will help us all be healthier in the long-run. 

You might be interested: 5 hearty autumnal vegan meals to try this month

Some tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: 

Personalize Your Plate 

  • Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies. Get creative with produce by trying an assortment of colors and textures.
  • Experiment with different grains. Try substituting whole grains for refined grains in recipes.
  • Choose lean protein foods. Vary your choices to include seafood, beans, peas and lentils, as well as eggs, lean cuts of meat and poultry that are prepared in a healthful way, such as baked or grilled instead of fried.
  • Complete your meal with dairy. Include low-fat or fat-free options like milk, yogurt, cheese, calcium-fortified soymilk, or lactose free milk.

Meal Planning Tips

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated or boring. Think about the foods you like from each food group – mixed dishes count, too! These are just a few examples of how different foods can be eaten as a meal to personalize your plate. If a food you enjoy is not listed here, consider which food group it meets when planning your meals.  

National Nutrition Month®

Meal plan suggestions from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (Source: Personalize Your Plate to Include Foods From Other Cultures–Latin American)

You might be interested: 5 teas and infusions popular in Latin America to improve sleep, focus, digestion, and more!

Building a balanced Latina diet doesn’t have to be a chore. With so many delicious ingredients and a passion for our food, us Latinas are sure to have fun cooking up some colorful, creative dishes to meet our health needs and our passion for flavor!

Another reason to exercise every day during the holidays

William B. Farquhar, Professor at University of Delaware shares how daily exercise can prevent high blood pressure–a primary health concern for Hispanic and Latino populations. 

Yes, of course we all know we should exercise every day during the holiday season to help counter the onslaught of excess calories that started on Thanksgiving and will mercifully end with a New Year’s toast.

We may even tire of hearing about exercise and weight from family, friends and the media. But an equally important reason to exercise every day is related to blood pressure, not waistline.

As a physiologist who has studied exercise and health for over 20 years, I can tell you that exercise lowers blood pressure – and does so right away.
Whether you go for a daily run or brisk walk, every time you finish exercising your blood pressure goes down, and stays down for many hours, which is good for your overall health. Here’s why.

Immediate drop in blood pressure occurs

The immediate blood pressure lowering effect of exercise is referred to as “post-exercise hypotension,” and many studies have shown that blood pressure declines 5 to 7 mmHg after every exercise session. The mechanisms responsible for lowering blood pressure immediately after exercise are not fully understood, but involve dilation of the blood vessels. Whatever the precise cause, this phenomenon is clearly beneficial.

During exercise the opposite occurs, blood pressure actually increases dramatically. Why? We are hardwired to exercise. When we exercise, our working muscles need oxygen-rich blood. Our brain signals the heart to increase blood flow and blood pressure rises. Systolic blood pressure (top number) can exceed 180 mmHg during hard exercise.

This sounds like a crazy-high number, and it would be if a reading like this were taken while seated, but it is not unusual during strenuous exercise. High blood pressure values during exercise are offset by the many low values recorded after exercise, to the benefit of the body.

high blood pressure, hypertension

Photo by Thirdman from Pexels

Why worry about blood pressure? Simply put, high blood pressure (i.e., hypertension) kills. It is estimated that hypertension is a primary or contributing cause of death of more than 400,000 Americans annually. Estimates suggest that one billion people worldwide have hypertension. Here in the U.S., one-third of the population is hypertensive, and these numbers are projected to rise 7 percent by 2030. This is not just a concern for older adults – one estimate suggests that 19 percent of young adults have hypertension.

Hypertension increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. The societal costs of hypertension are astronomical. When you consider the cost of health care services, medications and missed days of work, estimates suggest that hypertension costs the U.S. US$46 billion per year. Often, there are no signs or symptoms of hypertension, which is why it is referred to as the “silent killer.” Even among adults who have been diagnosed with hypertension, nearly half do not have it under control despite taking medications. Needless to say, anything you can do to lower your blood pressure will lower your risk of disease.

Great news: You don’t have to spend hours on this

As my colleagues and I point out in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, exercise guidelines for those with hypertension emphasize the importance of daily or near-daily exercise to lower blood pressure. While the guidelines focus on those diagnosed with hypertension, daily exercise can benefit everyone.

To some, daily exercise may seem onerous, but the good news is that the exercise need not be intense or lengthy – moderate intensity exercise such as brisk walking for 30 minutes will lead to reductions in blood pressure. There is even evidence that short exercise bouts throughout the day (e.g., 10 minutes, three times per day) can lower blood pressure.

The bottom line is that exercising every day (and obviously eating less) will help prevent holiday weight gain, but an equally important benefit of daily exercise is lower blood pressure.The Conversation

You might be interested: Start the conversation about Latino health concerns this Family Health History Day 

William B. Farquhar, Professor of Kinesiology & Applied Physiology, University of Delaware

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Start the conversation about Latino health concerns this Family Health History Day 

Did you know, Thanksgiving is also National Family Health History Day? Officially designated as such in 2004 by the surgeon general, this day is dedicated to learning your family health history and starting conversations about the topic with your loved ones. 

Knowing your family health history is important and can help you prevent and watch for certain health risks that may run in your family.  It’s especially important to know your family health history when it comes to diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. These diseases are often inherited and knowing your family health history can help you be aware and take preventive measures. By knowing your health risks, you can make lifestyle changes and screen for illnesses before they happen. 

Additionally, some of these diseases can also skip generations. You may think you have a pretty good understanding of your family’s health history, but usually this only includes one or two generations that you have known in your lifetime. Asking grandparents about their parents and other relatives will help give a fuller picture of what health risks may run in your family and what diseases may pop up again after skipping generations. 

Starting these conversations with family members may be hard, but they are necessary not only for your health but for the health, but for the health of everyone in your family and of future generations. 

Common Latino and Hispanic health concerns 

For Latino and Hispanic families, some health concerns you may want to look out for include: high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, cancer, and heart disease. 

According to the CDC, heart disease and cancer in Hispanics are the two leading causes of death, accounting for about 2 of 5 deaths. Statistically, Latinos are more likely to suffer from heart disease and on average, Hispanic women at risk of heart disease are likely to develop the condition 10 years earlier than non-Hispanics according to data from Go Red for Women

Other health concerns that Latinos and Hispanics should discuss with family members are chronic liver disease, chronic kidney diseases, and strokes. 

Data shows that Hispanic Americans have twice the rate of chronic liver disease compared to non-Hispanic whites and are more likely than whites to die of chronic liver disease. 

Hispanics are also 1.5 times more likely to have kidney failure compared to other Americans, and 20 percent of people on the kidney transplant waiting list are Hispanic. 

Getting the conversation started

To get started talking about your family health history with your loved ones, begin by asking questions. The CDC outlines questions you can use to get the conversation started such as: 

  • Do you have any chronic diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes, or health conditions, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol?
  • Have you had any other serious diseases, such as cancer or stroke? What type of cancer?
  • How old were you when each of these diseases or health conditions was diagnosed? (If your relative doesn’t remember the exact age, knowing the approximate age is still useful.)
  • What is your family’s ancestry? From what countries or regions did your ancestors come to the United States?
  • What were the causes and ages of death for relatives who have died?

Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

After asking these questions, record the information and update it as you learn more about your family health history. 

The CDC offers a free web-based tool called My Family Health Portrait, to help you organize the information. My Family Health Portrait also allows you to share this information easily with your doctor and other family members.

Once you have collected this information, you can then discuss these concerns with your doctor and make plans for screening tests and other examinations. 

Start the conversation this Thanksgiving with your loved ones and help each other learn more about your family health history to keep each other healthy for years to come!

vegan diet

Latinas shift to vegan diet, improving focus and productivity at work

It’s no secret that what we eat impacts how we perform. The types of food we consume contributes to our mood, energy levels, and productivity. As part of World Vegan Month this November, we are diving into the benefits of a vegan diet. 

In general, plant-based eating can improve one’s health, it’s typically more affordable, and much more eco-friendly. In fact, a vegan diet uses much fewer resources, requiring five times less water than producing animal-based foods. 

For the Latinx population specifically, it has been found that diet-related health issues common within the community can be reduced through plant-based eating. 

Latinx and Hispanic individuals are more prone to health risks such as high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. Statistically, Latinos are also more likely to suffer from heart disease

Transitioning to a vegan diet, or simply incorporating more plant-based meals into one’s existing diet, can significantly help to reduce these health risks. Affordability also makes veganism an attractive alternative, especially for middle- to lower- income communities. 

“It’s much more cost-effective to prepare plant-based dishes using rice, beans, and vegetables than it is to feed one’s family using animal products,” said holistic nutritionist and bilingual foodie writer, Carolyn Scott-Hamilton, in an article with VegNews

Currently, about 3 percent of Latinos in the U.S. are vegetarian or vegan, according to the Vegetarian Resource Group. This number is close to the national average for adults: 3.5 percent for females and 3.2 percent for males. 

In fact, for many Mexican-Americans, a vegan diet is not far off from what their ancestors once ate in pre-Columbian times, according to NPR. Many traditional dishes by indigenous natives were plant-based. The meats we think of today as traditional to Latinx dishes–beef, bork, chicken, lamb–were brought over by the Spaniards. 

Boosting your productivity at work through plant-based eating 

In a study conducted by City Pantry on healthy eating habits, experts weighed in on how foods affect our levels of productivity and focus. 

According Dr Uma Naidoo – board-certified psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School and nutrition specialist – reducing inflammation is key to keeping energy and productivity levels up during the workday. 

“Low-grade inflammation flips off a metabolic switch in the chemical pathway that produces energy,” she said. “When inflammation is present in the body, less energy is available to the brain, so it’s important to eat anti-inflammatory foods to ensure workers wake up in a good mood and stay energized and focused through the entire morning.”

Foods to avoid are those high in artificial sweeteners, added and refined sugars, trans fats, and processed meats and cheeses. 

Plant-based foods are associated with lower levels of inflammation, which means incorporating more vegan options into your diet can improve your energy and focus throughout the day. 

You might be interested: 10 Snacks to boost productivity and get you through the work day

There is no one way to approach veganism and many often transition into the diet slowly. Others may choose to only eat plant-based on certain days, such as the Instagram account Meatless Mondays, which encourages people to swap out meat at least one day a week and provides a variety of fun and fresh meatless meals to try.

To start incorporating some vegan meal choices into your diet to boost your productivity, Dr. Naidoo recommends focusing on foods with natural fats such as nuts, avocados, and extra virgin olive oil.

 “Fat is a key component for mental health. Your brain is made up of 60 percent fat and in order to perform at its best, it requires a constant supply of omega-3-fatty acids,” Dr. Naidoo explained.

As busy women and entrepreneurs, staying focused and energized is so important. If you’re feeling low on energy, it might be time to reevaluate your food choices and shake things up! And what better month to try out plant-based eating than World Vegan Month? 

Latinas in Business Intern Fe-Licitty Branch contributed to this article. 

Domestic violence does not stop with privilege, money, or education — it can happen to anyone

October is recognized nationwide as Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). Launched in 1987, Domestic Violence Awareness month works to connect and unite individuals and organizations on domestic violence issues and raise awareness for those issues. Over the past three decades, much progress has been made to support domestic violence victims and survivors, to hold abusers accountable, and to create and update legislation to further those goals. 

Despite the plethora of resources and support available, recognizing domestic abuse and taking the necessary steps to remove oneself from a dangerous situation can still be difficult for many victims. Domestic abuse is a crime that happens behind closed doors, making it hard for others to see the signs and obtain help for victims. Often, victims of domestic violence are made to feel trapped and isolated by their abusers. This makes it difficult for victims to reach out for help. Since the pandemic began, there has been an unsurprising increase in domestic abuse. Isolation, rising tensions, financial stress and pressures are all common circumstances that can lead to domestic abuse. However, it is possible to help victims get out of the cycle of abuse

domestic violence

Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels

Recognizing the signs of domestic violence

Domestic violence is nationally recognized as a public health issue and causes serious health-related consequences such as: physical injuries like broken bones or head trauma and endure long term effects due to chronic stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

Sometimes, even when someone knows all the signs and what to look out for, they simply cannot recognize that they are a victim or that what they are experiencing is abuse. Many believe domestic abuse only happens to certain people or only happens in ways they have seen portrayed in the media. However, domestic violence is an issue that can affect anyone, no matter their level of success or status. It can occur in relationships of any gender and the abuse may not only be physical, but can also be verbal, and may include sexual assault, threats, financial control, and/or isolation. 

The story of Leidy -a fictional name for protection purposes- is a good example of how domestic violence can happen regardless of status, privilege, and education. Her story shows how she learned to recognize the abuse she was facing and how she ultimately overcame it, healed, and built a better life for herself and her children. 

Leidy, a woman living in CA, had just come out of a prolonged divorce. She met her new husband, Kevin, but after a couple of years, he started to complain about lack of job opportunities. 

Eventually, Kevin was offered a job in New York. It was an exciting change filled with uncertainty but Leidy’s kids were looking forward to experiencing a new life in a new city as exciting as The Big Apple.  

Kevin, a hard worker, quickly moved up in position and started making excellent pay. On the other hand, Leidy was sustaining the house and watching the kids. She had no career of her own but was at peace in that she believed the sacrifice was worth it because Kevin was giving her so much in return. She enjoyed his presence as they shared this experience together. Amidst the lows involving disagreements, the highs kept Leidy thankful for him. 

Soon, everything took a turn. Kevin began having mood swings. Nothing was sufficient for him. He became demanding and jealous. Leidy felt as if she was walking on eggshells waiting for the moment Kevin would snap. 

Having moved to a new city, adapting to a new place was a slow process. Leidy did not have friends she could trust, although it was easy for her to get along with others, cultural barriers still existed. Adapting was exhausting for her. Soon, going to grad school was a decision Leidy made to distract herself and think about her career. 

Red flags in a domestic violence situation 

Although she was making all the household decisions, she was not given control over credit cards or checking accounts. She was required to get approval from Kevin for everything related to finances including buying groceries. She rationalized Kevin’s behavior by telling herself that the mood swings were related to stress at work but the situation soon escalated to yelling and fighting. Leidy was physically harmed a few times but didn’t dare to go to the police or ask for a restraining order, ashamed that she might be causing Kevin’s behavior. He would apologize profusely every time after the abuse and send her flowers.  

Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels

Eventually, a neighbor alerted Leidy about a women’s organization. She felt ashamed and to her core, believing the abuse was her fault. A judge and a teacher participating in the group shared their own abuse situation. They told Leidy domestic violence does not stop with privilege, money, or education and that stuck with her for years. 

Communicating through Kevin’s co-worker, Leidy demanded that he leave. It never came to a restraining order as she was terrified Kevin would want to hurt her or the kids in the future as a way to get revenge. 

Leidy went on to become a successful domestic violence advocate in pursuit of giving others a voice. She felt a sense of peace and gratitude when finding a way out of her situation helping other amazing women.

Leidy’s story shows that domestic abuse can happen to anyone, even people with successful careers, financial stability, and higher education. Like many victims of domestic abuse, Leidy tried to rationalize her partner’s behavior and later blamed herself, feeling she was somehow at fault for how she had been treated. These feelings are common in victims of domestic abuse and denial and fear often keeps victims from seeking help.

Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels

Resources for victims of domestic abuse

Below is a list of resources for anyone who may be struggling through domestic violence. These organizations are here to help. Just like the women’s organization in Leidy’s story, these organizations are equipped to offer aid and resources to victims of domestic violence and abuse. Recognizing you are experiencing domestic abuse and reaching out for help can be frightening, but it is the first step toward leaving the situation and healing. These organizations can help you connect with others and make a plan for the future. 

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence 

Domestic Violence Awareness Project

The National Domestic Violence Hotline 

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Additional Resources By State (PDF) 

Latinas in Business Interns Nancy Robles and Val Gaytan contributed to this article. 

Gov. Phil Murphy awards $4 million in grant funding to community organizations assisting residents in health insurance enrollment

Navigator organizations to provide assistance to uninsured and underserved NJ residents during the upcoming ACA Open Enrollment Period and year-round. 

Governor Phil Murphy and Department of Banking and Insurance (DOBI) Commissioner Marlene Caride recently announced the award of nearly $4 million in grant funding for community organizations to serve as state Navigators. These organizations will provide free outreach, education, and enrollment assistance to residents shopping for health insurance during the Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment Period. Open Enrollment at Get Covered New Jersey, the state’s official health insurance marketplace, begins on November 1st.  

The administration is increasing its investment in Navigators this year by nearly half a million dollars, and expanding the number of awardees, to help consumers enroll in quality, affordable health insurance. 

“Since day one, our administration has fought to improve access to health insurance based on our belief that health care is a fundamental right,” said Governor Murphy. “With this investment, we will expand the network of Navigators in our state and ensure that residents who need health insurance can get the help they need to obtain the coverage and care they deserve.” 

Get healthcare assistance through Get Covered NJ 

Get Covered New Jersey is the state’s official health insurance marketplace. Established by law on June 28, 2019 by Governor Phil Murphy, the marketplace is part of the state’s work to improve access to healthcare coverage for NJ residents and build up the progress made through the Affordable Care Act. 

NJ Diver's licenses

Governor of New Jersey Phil Murphy established the state’s official health insurance marketplace, GetCoveredNJ in 2019.

GetCoveredNJ is focused on increasing access to affordable, high-quality health insurance for residents of New Jersey. The marketplace is where individuals and families can easily shop for and buy health coverage, and the only place to receive financial help. You can use GetCoveredNJ to compare health plans and calculate costs, and to choose the plan that works best for you and your family. It is the only place you will be able to apply for financial help to lower your monthly insurance premium and out-of-pocket costs. Through GetCoveredNJ you may also find out if you might qualify for free or low-cost health insurance through New Jersey’s publicly funded health insurance program, NJ FamilyCare.

During the inaugural GetCoveredNJ Open Enrollment Period, enrollment increased by nearly 10 percent over the previous open enrollment. The upcoming Open Enrollment Period at Get Covered New Jersey will run from November 1, 2021 to January 31, 2022, and is the only time during the year residents without coverage through an employer or other program can enroll in health insurance, unless they have a major life event.

With the GetCoveredNJ marketplace, New Jersey can also have a longer Open Enrollment Period and establish Special Enrollment Periods in order to respond to the needs of its residents. For the 2021 plan year, Open Enrollment started November 1, 2020 and ended January 31, 2021. A COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period is now in effect.

GetCoveredNJ allows the state to improve access to healthcare by investing in more outreach and trained experts to provide enrollment help within the community. By continuing to strengthen these Navigator organizations, more residents will have a chance to attain healthcare and assistance throughout the application process. 

“Navigators are an important part of reaching the state’s uninsured residents and ensuring they have access to quality, affordable health coverage and available financial help in their own community. With expanded state and federal financial help available in 2022, we want to ensure as many residents as possible take advantage of low-cost health coverage that is available,” said Commissioner Marlene Caride. “We are excited to continue to expand our network of community organizations providing free, unbiased enrollment assistance to residents. We look forward to working with our community partners as we work to get New Jersey residents covered this Open Enrollment Period and throughout the year.”

Comprehensive list of Navigator organizations  

A total of 18 organizations will be funded for the 2021-2022 year to serve as Navigators to support enrollment assistance in the State-Based Marketplace, expanded from 16 organizations awarded funding last year. All of the organizations serving as Navigators will have the ability to assist residents in-person and remotely. 

A total of $3.9 million will be awarded for the 2021-2022 year, compared to $3.5 million awarded in the 2020-2021 grant year. Navigator grants will support the work of organizations that conduct public education activities and offer free and impartial assistance to consumers to shop for and enroll in coverage on the marketplace, and help them apply for financial help. Grantee activities will include outreach and education year-round for 2022 coverage, including in advance of and during the Open Enrollment Period.

Where to find Navigator Organizations: 

AtlantiCare | Contact: 888-569-1000


  • LGBTQ health services
  • LifeCenter Fitness
  • Community Program:
    • Healthy Children
    • Healing hearts

Center For Family Services inc. | Contact: 877.922.2377 or


  • Resources for Managing Traumatic Stress
  • Sesame Street in Communities 
  • Resources For Parents and Caregivers
  • Food Access
  • Financial Resources

Family Resource Network | Contact: 800-372-6510, Fax: (609) 392-5621


  • Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Individual Support 
  • Increase Accessibility
  • Home Independence
  • Scholarship Programs
  • Training & In-service Self Advocacy Training
  • Vocational Services
  • After-School Program
  • Network Support Services

Foodbank of Monmouth & Ocean County Fulfill | Contact: 732-918-26000 or


  • Tax refund Assistance
  • Providing Food
  • Kids Feeding Program
  • Culinary Training
  • Mobile Pantries
  • Affordable Healthcare

Health Research and Educational Trust of New Jersey | Contact: 609-275-4000 


  • ACCME Academy-find course, resources, support tools, and a community of
  • practice. 
  • Advancing Social Justice Resources
  • Educational Design Resources
  • Research Opportunities

HOPES Community-action Partnership Incorporated | Contact: 855-654-6737


  • Infant Head start Program
  • Adult Financial Literacy Workshop
  • Seniors Assisted
  • Transportation Program

Lakewood Resource and Referral Center | Contact: 732-942-9292


  • Affordable Housing
  • assistance
  • Community Education
  • Vaccination awareness

New jersey Citizen Action Educational Fund | Contact: 973-643-8800


  • Free Tax Preparation
  • Financial Coaching
  • Fair Houses Services
  • Consumer’s education

New Jersey Shares | Contact: 609-883-1626 or


  • NJ Shares Energy Grant
  • Municipal Water Newark & Parsippany- Troy Hills
  • Aqua Aid Program
  • Verizon NJ communications
  • Lifeline Program

Newark Community Health Centers Inc | Contact:  800-994-6242


  • Women’s Health Program
  • Dental Program
  • Behavioral Health Program
  • Specialty Services
  • Pediatric Program

North Hudson Community Action Corporation | Contact: 201-210-0200


  • Program administration
  • Pregnant Woman
  • Parent Family Community
  • engagement
  • Educational Program

Planned Parenthood of Northern, Central and southern New Jersey Inc. | Contact: 800-230-7526


  • Free STD testing
  • HIV Testing and Counseling
  • Cancer Screening
  • Abortion

Southern Jersey Family Medical Centers Inc. | Contact:  609-567-0200


  • Behavioral Health
  • Migrant Health
  • Patient Support Services
  • Women’s Health care

St. James Health Inc. | Contact:  973-789-8111


  • Family Planning
  • Geriatrics
  • Prevention, screening
  • Pharmacy Services
  • Social Work
  • Sports Medicine

The Oranges ACA Navigator Project Inc. | Contact: 973-500-6031


  • NJ Family Care Covered Services
  • Doctor Visits
  • Eyeglasses
  • Prescriptions
  • Mental Health Services
  • Immunizations 

University Hospital | Contact:  (973) 972-4300


  • Specialized Services
  • Diversity & Inclusion
  • LGBTQ training resources
  • Billing and Financial Counseling

Urban League of Hudson County | Contact:  201-451-8888


  • Affordable Housing & Community development
  • After school Computer learning
  • Child & Adult Care food program
  • Child Care
  • CEO Program

Zufall Health Center | Contact: 973-328-9100 or


  • Covid Testing/ Info
  • Community Programs
  • Outreach Programs
  • Dental Services
  • Patient Support

Enrollment for 2021 coverage remains open through the end of the year through the COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period. Additionally, residents who qualify for NJ FamilyCare (New Jersey’s Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program) can enroll year-round. More information on health insurance options can be found at