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Race & Equity

Charlotte's Camino Health Center opens its doors to a new wellness facility to meet holistic health needs

 The Camino Health Center has served Charlotte, specifically focusing on the Latino community, for 18 years..jpg
Gracyn Doctor
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WFAE
The Camino Health Center has served Charlotte, specifically focusing on the Latino community, for 18 years.

In September, Charlotte's Camino Health Center opened the doors of its new wellness center. It looks like a regular gym with a large aerobic space fully equipped with treadmills and other fitness machines and exercise balls.

But it’s not your typical gym.

“It's not really a gym,” said Jessica Montana, the director of health, education, and wellness operations. “It's really very, very one-on-one with personal trainers. And it's all based on their health needs.”

Camino Vida is just the newest branch of the Camino Health Center. It’s a wellness program created to help patients improve and manage their health and chronic diseases.

Camino Vida is the wellness program at the health center. They focus on helping people manage their chronic illnesses..jpg
Gracyn Doctor
Camino Vida is the wellness program at the health center. It focuses on helping people manage their chronic illnesses.

The Camino Health Center is a bilingual, holistic health center that opened in 2003 and was created out of a need for medical services for the Latino community. The Latino population makes up more than 14% of residents in Mecklenburg County.

Research collected at Camino Clinic pointed to elevated rates of high blood pressure and blood sugar among patients, and showed a need for more education and help to manage illnesses.

“It's all medically based,” Montana said. “Patients that have chronic diseases, they have high blood pressure, or they have high cholesterol or high A1C — blood sugars — then those are the folks that we have in the program. It's really about preventing cardiovascular disease. If they have any risk factors, that's what we're working on here.”

To benefit from the wellness program, you must be referred by one of the doctors due to underlying health conditions. Participants of the program have access to one-on-one trainers and customized nutrition and exercise plans. There’s no cost for assessments and consultations, but members of the clinic will have to pay for their appointments and lab tests.

The health center also operates three other branches: a clinic for primary care and pediatric services, Camino Contigo for therapy and the Food Farmacy for grocery needs.
To shop at the food pantry, complete an application online or message Camino on Facebook.

Last year, Food Farmacy distributed more than 1 million pounds of food to over 23,000 families, a 300% increase from 2019.

Public relations manager Paola Garcia said the growth in demand was due to the pandemic.

“A lot of other organizations had to shut down, but that wasn't an option for us,” she said. “We knew that our community was going to need us a lot more, especially during these trying times. So, we decided to be open.”

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Gracyn Doctor
The Camino Clinic offers services like pediatric and primary care.

Although Camino focuses heavily on meeting the needs of the Latino community, it's also concerned with serving those who are uninsured or underinsured, and low-income families.

Last year, the center served community members more than 41,000 times. There were about 7,600 visits to the Camino Clinic and over 130 counseling services provided. Camino’s mission is to equip people to live healthy and hopeful lives. It does this by assisting patients with multiple aspects of their life, not just one.

“If you come to Camino and you have a bad knee or something, we obviously are going to treat you for your bad knee," Garcia said. "But we make you take a social determinants of health assessment.”

That assessment helps staff determine the best way to help their clients and the right resources to point them to if clients need something they don’t provide.
The Camino Health Center is located off North Tryon in the University area. For more information, visit caminohealthcenter.com.

The center is also working to assess the needs of Latino citizens in Mecklenburg County and surrounding areas. Surveys about the strengths and needs of your community can be completed at www.camino.org/survey or by texting 704-610-6680.

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Updated: October 5, 2021 at 10:09 AM EDT
This story was updated to clarify the number of Camino Health Center branches.