¡Arriba. Abajo. Al centro. Pa’ dentro! If you’re not familiar with this Mexican phrase, now’s the time to learn it! Sunday is Cinco de Mayo, and margaritas are in order. In the U.S., we celebrate this day to recognize Mexican heritage and pride. As a native of South Texas, I’m usually one to take part – with tequila! What I love about this day is not only the significance for Mexico, specifically the state of Puebla, but also its meaning to the U.S. The date of May 5 originates from the Battle of Puebla, when 4,000 Mexican soldiers defeated the French, who stormed Veracruz with double the strength in 1861. Some historians believe this defeat also inhibited Napoleon from aiding the Confederate rebels during the American Civil War. But it’s not only in history that this day holds significance for both the U.S. and Mexico. It’s important today because of the intrinsic ways our countries are connected to one another through our people.
Mexican Americans comprise the majority of U.S. Latinos, and as experts in social marketing who specialize in helping Americans live happier, healthier lives, the U.S. Latino audience is one we inherently recognize and address in our day-to-day work. As we do, we take great care in approaching Latinos with cultural understanding and not simply the Spanish language―just as we would with any other population as fundamental to our country’s make-up.
The HHS’ Office of Minority Health demonstrates how important these efforts are in health care, in particular, and sets an example we should follow. In April, it released enhanced standards to help promote equity and remove ethnic disparities in health care. The National Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) Standards in Health and Health Care offer guidance to health organizations on how to better deliver care to culturally diverse populations. A recent report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality states that the estimated cost of inequitable and inadequate care due to ethnic and racial disparities is $1.24 trillion!
CLAS Standard #1: Provide effective, equitable, understandable and respectful quality care and services that are responsive to diverse cultural health beliefs and practices, preferred languages, health literacy and other communication needs. The remaining 14 standards cover three categories: (1) Governance, leadership and workforce; (2) Communication and language assistance; and (3) Engagement, continuous improvement and accountability. You can read them in their entirety here.
HHS calls these standards a “blueprint” for delivering culturally and linguistically appropriate health care. As social marketers, we should develop our own blueprint, our own set of standards, for communicating with the U.S. Latino audience. This would ensure that the messaging and strategy we develop resonates culturally and is, in fact, effective among this important population. In addition, when programs call for outreach to Latinos, the strategy should be developed as a core pillar to the program rather than an add-on or afterthought. I’m proud to say this is something that Ogilvy is passionate about, and I look forward to seeing how our work grows stronger as we approach Latinos with thoughtful, methodical communications programs.
So, as you raise your margarita and dig into that guacamole this weekend, remember that Cinco de Mayo commemorates more than a date in history but also a rich and significant part of today’s American culture – one that deserves our consideration not only on the 5th of May but year-round.
Ogilvy Washington’s Social Marketing Practice offers Hispanic marketing services through Think Latino, an in-house group of bilingual and bi-cultural Latino experts.