Community Health


Traditional Healer Treats Body and Mind

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Juana Gomez (right) is a traditional Mixteca healer from Mexico. She lives with her daughter, Johanna Gomez (left), in Madera, Calif. and provides health care to many farm workers. (Sasha Khokha/KQED)

Editor’s Note: Some recent immigrants avoid visits to western doctors. Instead, they call on traditional healers who speak their language, use familiar medicinal plants, and share their cultures. As part of our ongoing series of first-person health profiles called “What’s Your Story?” we hear from Juana Gomez, a Mixteca traditional healer from Oaxaca, Mexico. Gomez now lives in Madera, in California’s Central Valley, where many of her patients are undocumented farm workers. Her daughter, Johanna Gomez, translates her story. Reporter: Sasha Khokha

By Juana Gomez

We have the purple basil and we have the green basil. The basil is a very, very sacred plant from my ancestors.

It’s very important to know the classification of each plant because even though they are plants and they are natural and they have healing powers, they work just as medicine and you have to be really careful with them.

My mom says that the most she sees here are males that work on the fields. She says that it is very common for them to come because it’s a combination of not being able to have a restroom close enough, it’s a combination of the heat, the long hours that they’re sitting, the vibration of the tractors. So, there are many, many factors.

Most of the people that come do have physical illness, but many times they are not sick with the physical illness. They are more sick of a spiritual need because of the sadness of leaving their people behind.  Maybe they left their wife and their kids over in their native countries. Continue reading

More Than a Haircut — Get a Health Check Up Too

By Marnette Federis

Center Stage Salon Oakland's Lakeshore District hosted a health screening event for The Black Barbershop Program. (Photo: Marnette Federis)

Chris Holiday of Oakland has his blood pressure checked at Center Stage Salon in Oakland's Lakeshore District. The salon hosted a health screening as part of The Black Barbershop Program. (Photo: Marnette Federis)

Oakland’s Center Stage Salon was buzzing like any other busy Saturday morning last weekend. But salon clients weren’t there just to get haircuts. They also lined up to get their blood pressure and glucose levels checked.

It was all part of a nationwide effort — The Black Barbershop Program. The goal was to screen African American men for high blood pressure and diabetes by going to the place where you would easily find them – at the barbershop. The screenings are free and volunteers also gave out health information.

“I’d like to live a hundred years,” said James Fulbright, one of the hairstylists at the salon who was screened for high blood pressure and diabetes. “So I just try to keep myself healthy and I needed to be checked.”

According to program organizers, African American men suffer worse health outcomes compared to other racial groups. For starters, 40 percent of black men die prematurely from heart disease compared to 21 percent of white men.

Program organizers say African American men face a number of barriers and access issues when it comes to health including lack of affordable services, poor health education and insufficient services that cater to black men. Continue reading