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How SLO County’s first Latinx Indigenous Study is addressing healthcare issues in the Mixteco community

San Luis Obispo County now has it’s very first Latinx Indigenous Enumeration Study. Preliminary findings show that there are around 8,000 Indigenous Latinx people working or living in SLO county.
Posted at 3:21 PM, Oct 23, 2023

UPDATE: The San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department released updated statistics regarding the health services participants in the Latinx Indigenous Enumeration Study have never received. According to the report, 54% have never had a routine physical exam, 65% have never had a dental exam, and 84% have never gotten an eye exam.

San Luis Obispo County now has it’s very first Latinx Indigenous Enumeration Study. Preliminary findings show that there are around 8,000 indigenous Latinx people working or living in SLO county; 82% reside in North County and 87% speak Mixteco at home.

“What we did was a decolonial research study, so first and foremost, we wanted to work with the indigenous community, that being Mixteco Community Organizing Project (MICOP) as our primary partner,” said Professor Mario Espinoza-Kulick, PhD, a professor at Cuesta College and the coprincipal investigator of the enumeration study.

Silvano Vázquez Hernández is a community organizer at MICOP and the coordinator for this study.

Vázquez Hernández said this study is important because it can help target services to where they are needed the most.

“Even though 95% of the people who were surveyed are in the agricultural industry as farm workers, over 64% of people are suffering from hunger,” Professor Espinoza-Kulick added.

The data shows that it’s a relatively young population — 29 is the average age; they’ve only been in SLO County for about four years; and the average household includes five adults and two kids.

“The earliest arrival that was reported in the survey was 1998, so there have been a presence for a while in San Luis Obispo County, but we didn't see an increase in the numbers until around 2020, 2021,” Espinoza-Kulick said.

A majority of those surveyed reported being of Mixteco descent, which is a Mexican indigenous community. According to the report, 81% are from the state of Guerrero and 17% from Oaxaca.

“They represent more than 100 hometowns,” Espinoza-Kulick said.

Coordinators said 325 people participated in the survey, and their top health concerns were excessive heat, natural disasters and workplace health risks.

Vázquez Hernández said some of the most striking statistics include the lack of access to preventative care.

The report found that 46% of respondents said they never received a physical exam, 35% never had a dental exam, and 16% never had an eye exam. Transportation, cost, and language were cited as the top barriers to healthcare.

“I think the top concerns for them are stress, anger and sadness because of the overcrowded living conditions that were reported with up to 14 people in a household alone,” Espinoza-Kulick explained. “But also thinking about the way that their income is $2,500 a month.”

The SLO County Public Health Department commissioned the study with federal funds. Professor Espinoza-Kulick said it cost around $135,000.

Other collaborators include the Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP), California State University, San Marcos, and Diringer and Associates.

“Moving forward, we hope to collaborate with our local partners outside of that SLO County Public Health so we can all work collaboratively to engage with these family members and get them the real resources that they really need,” said Demetrio Morales-Salazar, SLO County Public Health Multilingual Outreach Coordinator.

Morales-Salazar said the county offers Mixteco interpretation for all public health services.

“We do community outreach, community engagement, sometimes we will go out into the community [and] conduct education sessions, having the community members understand how important health care is for them,” Morales-Salazar said.

At MICOP, leaders want the community to know that they are there for them.

In Mixteco, Vázquez Hernández said he wants people to feel at home when they visit their office. They will do their best to answer questions.

Those surveyed said they would like to get health information through WhatsApp videos or audios, text messages, and flyers.