Puentes a Esperanza y Vida (Bridges to Hope and Life)


In Western New York and across the country, the Hispanic population is one of the fastest growing population groups. Puerto Ricans are the second largest Hispanic subgroup in the U.S., residing predominantly in the Northeast and along the east coast. In WNY, two-thirds (66.5 percent) of the Latino population is of Puerto Rican heritage. At Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, researchers are interested in knowing the cancer needs of local Hispanics and are conducting research to figure this out.

The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation has funded Director of Community Engagement, Elisa M. Rodriguez, PhD, to study the local Hispanic population in a grant called, “Understanding the Cancer Prevention Educational Needs of the Western New York Puerto Rican Hispanic Population: Puentes a Esperanza y Vida (Translated: Bridges to Hope and Life).”

“Cancer remains the leading cause of death among Hispanic populations in the United States. Hispanics do not share one monolithic culture, uniform cancer risk, or similar experiences of cancer disparities. It’s important for us to appreciate their differences so that we can address inequalities by informing the development of culturally appropriate and community-informed education, outreach and health interventions of direct relevance among this population,” states Dr. Rodriguez.

The Hispanic population of WNY has grown steadily over the past 30 years and now includes 45,014 people across the eight-county region.

“When we look at national numbers for cancer, we are not able to recognize important differences between Mexican, Puerto Rican or Cuban Hispanics,” states Dr. Rodriguez. “This is why our project is so important. It will give us a better picture of what is going on locally for our Hispanic population when it comes to cancer. Having grown up on the West Side of Buffalo, this is especially close to my heart.”

About one-half of the Latino population of WNY resides in the City of Buffalo and makes up about 8.7 percent of the City’s population. Chautauqua County, located in the Southern Tier, also has a growing Hispanic population of just over 7 percent and is also predominantly Puerto Rican.

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"The goal of this study is to identify what the community needs to know about cancer prevention, and then figure out ways to utilize social media, health care experiences, and new technologies as a means of fulfilling those needs.

“Hispanics are among the leading users of social media in the U.S. Are we missing an opportunity to reach our local population with important health information? We hope this project will provide insight on strategies that are the most useful to engage our community,” continues Dr. Rodriguez.

Starting in September, the outreach team began its work related to this project in the community. Jomary Colón, Senior Health Referral Specialist in the Cancer Prevention and Control Department at Roswell Park is the project lead on the outreach portion of Puentes a Esperanza y Vida. Colón has been working in WNY and Buffalo for the last 10 years educating people about cancer, and she’s excited to learn more about the cancer needs of the local Hispanic population.

“People want to learn more about cancer and their health and we are always happy to share and serve the community. This grant helps us learn what people need to know to take care of their families and themselves,” states Colón.

For more information, please contact Jomary Colón 716-845-4623 .

Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion collaborated with the Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York (HHCWNY) once again to present a celebration of Hispanic history in Western New York. Roswell Park is honored to serve the Hispanic community as we fight to prevent and cure cancer.