Cancer.gov en Español Celebrates First Year, Looks Forward to Growth
An announcement last month by the U.S. Census Bureau noted that Hispanics and Latinos are not only the largest minority group in the country, but they are also the fastest growing. In anticipation of their health information needs, NCI launched a Spanish-language Web site, Cancer.gov en español, in April 2007.
"Although Latinos in this country represent a diverse population with respect to cultures, Cancer.gov en español is an important step in the right direction to meet their information needs," says Nelvis Castro, associate director of multicultural and international communications in NCI's Office of Communications and Education (OCE).
The site has had strong reviews, including six NIH Plain Language Awards, an NIH Director's Award, and more than 140 articles publicizing the site across various national Spanish-language markets, including CNN en Español. After it launched, the number of visitors to NCI's Spanish-language Web pages jumped by 10 percent.
"It's not always easy to find relevant and appropriate cancer information in Spanish, but Cancer.gov en español offers this in one easy-to-access Web site," says Dr. Yvette Colón, director of education and internet services at the American Pain Foundation. "We provide several links to it from our Web site, and our Pain Information staff members regularly include it as a resource for callers."
By 2007, many NCI materials were already available in Spanish, notes José Acosta, a technical writer and editor in OCE. "What we needed to develop was a new Web site structure," he says, "one that would be proper for the cultural needs of Latinos."
Among the approximately 46 million Latinos living in the U.S., about half can speak English comfortably. Research shows, however, that Spanish messages have a stronger emotional impact on Latinos than those written or spoken in English. And even among second-generation immigrants, culture influences their preference for images and content that reflect their heritage.
NCI addressed these trends by designing a Web site for Latinos living in the U.S. who are confronting cancer personally, as family members of a cancer patient, or as health professionals seeking cancer research information in Spanish to provide to their patients.
"We're trying to address the myths and beliefs that exist within the Latino community around cancer right from the home page," says Anne Middleswarth, a Web content manager in OCE. Four homepage banners highlight cancer prevention, treatment, detection, and survivorship, and lead to content that corrects misunderstandings about the topics.
"It's become a tool for navigating the health care system," explains Silvia Inéz Salazar, a public health advisor in OCE. She points to the Spanish-language dictionary on the site, which contains more than 5,000 entries and allows people to toggle back and forth between the Spanish and English versions of cancer terms. She notes that both patients and health care providers have used this translation function to improve their communications.
Members of offices across NCI have helped with content development and promotion of Cancer.gov en español. For example, information specialists at the NCI Cancer Information Service call center in Miami, FL, which answers Spanish-language inquiries from the public, helped test the site before it went live, providing valuable feedback on navigation and the search engine.
The site will continue its expansion in 2008, with targeted development of new pages that reflect the areas of greatest interest and need among Spanish-speaking audiences.
—Brittany Moya del Pino