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Taking Alce su voz workshops to Southwest Kansas provides information about barriers to health care

Did you know that the population in Ford, Seward, and Finney counties in rural southwest Kansas is over 50% Hispanic/Latinx?

Dodge City, in Ford County, Kansas, was often represented in cowboy and western films and associated with the phrase “Get the hell out of Dodge.” But Dodge is not the same as it used to be in the wild west. According to the U.S. Census, 64.6% of the population of Dodge City (in Ford County, KS) identifies as Hispanic or Latino, 27.7% of the population is foreign-born, and 57.2% of the population ages 5 and above lives in a household where a language other than English is spoken. In addition to Spanish, a sizable portion of the population of Dodge City speaks Mayan languages. Thanks to our current funding from the Increase the Reach program, the Office of Minority Health, and the Kansas Health Foundation, Alce su voz is learning about barriers to health equity in Southwest Kansas and working to connect Spanish speakers and speakers of Mayan languages who live in the region with resources and information.

Our first Southwest Kansas community meeting was held at a church in Dodge City on February 19. The purpose of the meeting was to learn about barriers to healthcare access and vaccine equity in Mayan communities in Kansas, provide information about accessing healthcare services, and clear up any misconceptions about vaccination procedures. The meeting was organized in collaboration between Alce su voz and Genesis Family Health, a community health clinic that serves Southwest Kansas. Dr. Ximena García, Governor Laura Kelly’s Senior Director for Vaccine Equity, had planned to attend the meeting as well, but she was unable to attend because the meeting was rescheduled from its original date due to a snowstorm.

In my last blog post, I noted that the majority of Mayan community members in Coffeyville, a town located in Southeast KS, speak Akateko or the related language Q’anjob’al. In Southwest Kansas, however, the majority of residents from Mayan communities speak K’iche,’ which is not mutually comprehensible with Akateko and Q’anjob’al. In attendance at the Dodge City meeting, there were 69 adults who spoke K’iche’ and eight adults who spoke another Mayan language called Aguacateko. It is likely that all of these individuals spoke Spanish as a second language learned in school; our K’iche’ interpreter Marcos Morales attended the meeting to provide interpreting services, but all of the participants said that they were able to understand and communicate in Spanish.

The leaders of the church where we held the meeting were proud to share that they did not lose any community members to COVID-19 during the pandemic, and they credited their practice of disseminating vaccine information to the members of their congregation and encouraging them to get vaccinated. Some of the meeting participants shared that people who worked in one of Dodge City’s two meat packing plants, Cargill and National Beef, had no problem getting vaccinated because the vaccines were provided when they were on the job (thanks to strong advocacy from Latinx leadership across the state and Governor Laura Kelly’s decision to prioritize vaccines for meat packing workers in March 2021). On the other hand, outside of those plants, many individuals feared that getting vaccinated meant they would have to disclose personal information or pay a large sum of money. The participants shared that their pastors were among the most trusted sources of health information.

Learning about barriers and bridges to COVID-19 vaccine equity in this community sheds light on areas that need improvement for health equity in general and preparedness for future health emergencies in rural Kansas.

Alce su voz will continue to hold workshops in Southwest Kansas throughout the year. Our next workshop, organized in collaboration with Genesis Family Health, will focus on barriers to healthcare for Spanish-speaking patients and strategies to improve access. The meeting will take place on Sunday, May 7 at 1:30pm at the Seward County Activity Center at 810 Stadium Ave., in Liberal, Kansas. All are welcome to attend; a meal will be served, and participants who register here by Tuesday, May 2 will receive a $40 stipend for their participation. For more information about upcoming workshops, please send an email to and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Wichita State Spanish graduate student Raúl Rangel speaks at the February workshop for Mayan communities in Dodge City.

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