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UNC Charlotte Expands Partnership Focused On Latino Health

Michael Tomsic
People take part in a Zumba class next to Bethesda Health Center.

UNC Charlotte is expanding its partnership with a health clinic that serves the Latino community. The university and clinic already work together to provide mental health treatment, and now they'll add exercise programs and health screenings.

About 50 people danced up a sweat Thursday in a Zumba class next to the Bethesda Health Center in north Charlotte. UNC Charlotte graduate assistant Anna Tart points out there aren't many men dancing.

"They don't particularly like Zumba," she said with a laugh, "so we're going to build a program to get them in."

Tart's new role is essentially to get patients moving and screen them for diabetes, high blood pressure and other health risks. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina donated $44,000 to fund her position, screenings and gym equipment.

Wendy Pascual is the executive director of Camino Community Center, which includes the Bethesda clinic.

"It's a great opportunity to provide access to free exercise and health education for people in the community," she says. "That is a big need."

Bethesda mainly serves low-income and uninsured Latinos. Pascual says the men in particular have a need for better exercise, and Tart says the new gym equipment should help.

Her graduate program is kinesiology, the study of body movement. It can be an important part of treating high blood pressure or other chronic conditions. 

"One thing that's proven to decrease all of these levels is exercise," Tart says. "We have these exercise classes that you can come to for free and reduce the risk of mortality and just increase their health in general and quality of life."

UNC Charlotte graduate students are also continuing to provide mental health treatment at the center.