Maine: Portland Gets in Some Kicks for Health
July 22, 2005
On July 16, Portland's annual Latino Soccer Tournament drew a crowd of hundreds and helped raise awareness of city health services in the Hispanic community, especially among those who do not speak English. The tournament has become popular with Portland's Latino community since its establishment last year.
"People who are immigrants are scared to seek services," because of language barriers and fears of culturally inappropriate medical treatment, said Noel Bonam, HIV/STD program coordinator with the city's Health and Human Services Department.
Bonam said the fears are unfounded and the best way to convince recent immigrants to get a mammogram or be tested for STDs is to advertise.
Bonam said city employees found they could spend months organizing a public health forum and draw about 20 people, or spend the same amount of time organizing a soccer tournament and draw a crowd of hundreds.
The all-day tournament was the first of two scheduled for Portland this month, both organized by city health and human services employees. The Four Nations International Soccer Tournament, part of the Festival of Nations, is scheduled for July 29-30 at Deering Oaks. The winner of the Latino Tournament will go up against Somali and Sudanese teams and a team representing Maine's Asian community, said organizers.
Health officials hand out condoms and literature about free or reduced-cost medical services at the events, and they have found the advertising works. "All these people came together last year, and I'm still getting customers," said city HIV/STD counselor Nelida Berke.
Data from the 2000 Census put Maine's Hispanic population at about 9,360. The figure increased to nearly 10,000 in 2003, although true numbers could be higher, community activists say, because language barriers block some Hispanics from participating in the census.
Portland Press Herald
07.17.05; Elbert Aull
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.