Providing culturally appropriate MS care is
another challenge because many healthcare
providers don’t always fully comprehend this
population’s values, beliefs, priorities and social
processes, says Dr. Durán. According to Dr.
Durán, key traditional values among Latinos
include family, respect for authority, religious faith
and good interpersonal relations.
By far the most central is family.
Treating the Latino family
“The Latino family is a big part of treatment, and
we need to educate all of them,” Dr. Amezcua
emphasizes. “They come to appointments and
programs. We need community volunteers to talk
with them about the disease, to provide social
support and to transform medical information into
lay language.” (See “A family outing,” page 20.)
“When I was first diagnosed, I wanted my friend
and my mother to accompany me, but I was
allowed only one other person,” Dr. Conill recalls.
“If members of a Hispanic family find themselves in
a space that’s not welcoming, if there’s no translator,
they may decide not to come back. If they already
feel like they’re on the fringes, they’re likely to
become alienated and give up on care altogether.”
The double-edged sword of family
Society Ambassador and Queens, N.Y., resident
Ana Franco says she often faces a lack of
comprehension about the disease in the Latino
world. Her daughter, Julia Laureano, who is now
21, was diagnosed with MS when she was 12.
“In the Dominican Republic they don’t really
understand what’s wrong with Julia,” she
explains. “They don’t know what MS is—no idea.
Sometimes family members will tell her, ‘You’re
so fat!’ (she has gained weight due to steroid
treatments) or ‘You’re so clumsy!’ It’s exhausting to
explain every single time to the same people.”
Many people deal with what Dr. Durán calls the
double-edged sword of family involvement. “Aunts