M.P.H. Candidate Bruno S. Villazhiñay Matute Reaches Out to Local Hispanic Communities
Mr. Villazhiñay Matute uses his passion for equity in health care to educate local Spanish-speaking communities on COVID-19, vaccines and more.
Bruno Villazhiñay Matute, a Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) student in health policy and management and administrator of biomedical research administration at New York Medical College (NYMC), is using his Applied Practice Experience (APE) in the School of Health Sciences and Practice (SHSP) to help educate the Westchester community, especially the Hispanic population in the county, about the COVID-19 vaccines and emergency preparedness. Reaching communities in Yonkers and Peekskill through virtual seminars, Mr. Villazhiñay Matute hopes to dispel misconceptions and misinformation about the vaccines.
Mr. Villazhiñay Matute, originally from Ecuador, has dedicated his APE, a requirement for graduation, to making sure Spanish-speaking communities in Westchester are receiving the same official information regarding the COVID-19 outbreak as English-speaking communities. The goal of his project is to increase vaccination education; knowledge of COVID-19 and its variants; and awareness of emergency preparedness in municipalities where at least one quarter of the population identifies as Hispanic or Latino through webinars presented in both English and Spanish. The goal of the APE is to provide students with real time exposure to work in a variety of settings to enhance the health of populations, according to Amy Ansehl, D.N.P., R.N., M.S.N., FNP-BC, associate dean of student experience in the SHSP, director of the APE and associate professor of public health.
Villazhiñay Matute says that although the population in Westchester County is more than 25 percent Hispanic or Latino, the vaccination rates within the community are disproportionately low.
“Addressing this disparity is essential for ensuring a full and equitable recovery from the pandemic, allowing Hispanic and Latino patients to not only protect themselves and their loved ones but also to contribute to the safety and wellness of our entire population,” Mr. Villazhiñay Matute said.
Mr. Villazhiñay Matute has hosted four sessions assisted by his site supervisor for the project, George Contreras M.P.H., M.S., M.E.P., CEM, FACEM, assistant director of the Center for Disaster Medicine and assistant professor in the Institute of Public Health,. A session on November 15 conducted in Spanish reached more than 12 families, and Mr. Villazhiñay Matute encountered questions regarding misinformation about the vaccines and their contents. “I had to assure them that these notions were not true and that these vaccines are safe,” he said. “The seminars can also be used to help communities where official municipal information and resources are lacking,” Mr. Villazhiñay Matute says.
Offering accurate information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and emergency preparedness in the primary language of Hispanic communities is crucial to maintaining equity, according to Mr. Villazhiñay Matute. “Emergency preparedness in the Latino community is a form of long-term empowerment since public health crises can exacerbate pre-existing social inequities,” he said.
This project has already provided a great service to the Westchester community and has given Mr. Villazhiñay Matute a hands-on opportunity to achieve his career goals as a future public health and healthcare professional, as he is on track to receive his M.P.H. in May. “As a student at NYMC, I’ve had the pleasure to take a wide variety of courses that have broadened my knowledge of public health issues and practices,” he said. “I have felt empowered in my mission to broaden access to high-quality, affordable healthcare.”