Using the Power of Telenovelas to Spread an Important Message

The University of Houston Student Made Productions Helping the Community

Houston – Students at the University of Houston have been working on producing Telenovelas with an important message. Raising awareness in the Hispanic community about the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Recuerdos de mi Abuelo or in English, Memories of my Grandfather, is a University of Houston student produced, five-episode telenovela aimed at helping Houston’s Hispanic community with a story that gives people an understanding of the risks and warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

For University of Houston students, and telenovela co-writers and co-directors, Hannia Yeverino and Rafael Elorza, it began as a hackathon-styled scriptwriting contest. The idea for the contest came via University of Houston assistant professor of psychology, Luis D. Medina who was looking for a way to increase Alzheimers awareness within the Hispanic community.

Strategic communication graduate, Carmen Miranda, joined the telenovelas project through her public relations practicum class that sees students working for a client for an entire semester. She joined the team as script supervisor but soon the project became deeply personal.

“After learning more about the actual project, I started noticing that maybe my mom’s memory problems weren’t just memory problems. And she’s fine. She hasn’t been like diagnosed or anything, but it does make me aware of our lifestyle and our health choices,” Miranda told Houston Life.

Hispanics are fifty percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s compared to non-Hispanic whites, yet only represent 1% of clinical trials.

“Part of it is that individuals from Hispanic communities may not have full awareness of what this is and so a lot of families will tell us they think that this is part of normal typical aging,” explained Medina. He also added that many of the research studies conducted presented barriers such as the language and also did not consider things like people not being able to take part because they can not get the time off work.

Telenovelas, or Spanish language soap operas, were identified as effective medium to educate community and let people know what resources are out there. Yeverino and Elorza know spreading a message like this is important. “I feel like I’m saying something with this and that makes me want to continue doing it,” said Elorza.

Watch the full story in the video above.

Click here to watch Recuerdos de mi Abuelo in both Spanish and English.

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