Campaign To Get California Latinos Online

Six hundred monolingual Spanish-speaking families have been provided personal computers and Internet access by the Latino Community Foundation as part of a campaign to increase access to online education and health care information.

Fewer families in the Latino community have computers and Internet access than the general population, said Raquel Donoso, CEO of the San Francisco-based foundation.

“The data shows 40% are not connected to the Internet and have no computers at home,” Donoso said. “This is a fundamental piece of how families are getting information, how they are able to communicate to the world. Forty percent is something we want to do something about.”

In a fundraising drive over the holidays, the foundation raised $32,500, which was matched by the California Emergent Technology Fund. It provided enough funds for computers and access for 600 families in the San Francisco Bay Area.

So far, the group’s efforts have resulted in getting 5,000 families trained and computers for 1,000 families. Donoso said the goal is to get another 2,400 families connected.

Pew Internet Project research indicates 72% of Internet users looked online for health information in 2012. The most commonly researched topics are specific diseases or conditions, treatments or procedures and doctors and other health care professionals.

“There is a lot of information out there,” Donoso said. “I still think there is still need for Spanish language content. There are sites that you can get it translated into Spanish, but not a huge amount of sites geared to Latinos in the U.S.”

Covered California, the portal for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, is available in Spanish. It has attracted 1.1 million residents who have begun the application process, as of Jan. 4, but there is no breakdown of how people are registering, what percent use the Internet, or what the ethnic breakdown is, said spokesperson Izelda Lopez.

Donoso said there are some unique challenges in the Latino community, where many don’t have insurance or a regular doctor. Internet access can be helpful, she said.

“There are high rates of diabetes, and we are increasingly seeing high rates of depression,” Donoso said. “There are health disparities that we see in these communities.”

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