ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Dilapidated billboards and empty body shops, barefoot smokers and cliques of transvestites. Not a family in sight. Central Avenue, known locally as the War Zone, shows all the wear of its often hardscrabble life. Poverty rates exceed 50 percent, prostitution and domestic violence abound, and undocumented immigrants flock to and from its weathered streets.
Amid dusty Ford pickups dropping off Latino workers while teenage Navajos linger outside a Vietnamese restaurant, it's hard to envision a hub of a cohesive community. But turn left onto a quieter block of commercial garages and one-bedroom houses, and a salmon-colored storefront guards another world. It's the neighborhood's health center, called One Hope. Spanish colloquialisms fill the air as the door opens to a sombrero-wearing patient accepting coffee from a receptionist juggling clipboards and a baby. In the waiting area, outfitted like a family room with sofas and artwork, a corkboard proclaims the clinic's ethos: "Love is the key to life."
Born directly out of needs that are locally defined, One Hope offers an answer to a puzzle seen around the nation. The United States continues to face stark disparities in health outcomes along lines of income, race, and ethnicity. But these disparities aren't always driven by economics or geography. Sometimes, the obstacle is cultural. A Somali woman in the U.S. can't keep waiting to give birth as her mother did if labor that goes on "too long" compels a Cesarean section. When a Hmong father believes the body contains a finite amount of blood that won't replenish, he interprets a request for a sample of his sick child's blood as a grisly joke and is unlikely to return to the hospital.