Photos via Latino Health Access
Not many people can say that their health outreach workers come to their doorstep or their local church. Or that they do everything in their power to make sure you can see a doctor, even if it means babysitting your child while you go to the doctor. They are some of Santa Ana’s most essential workers and they are called promotores.
Promotores are highly regarded in Latin American communities, where they dedicate their time to providing advice, support and tangible help to ensure the health of those around them. They are not health professionals; rather, they are community members who have been trained to provide basic health education to their neighbors.
The personal trust and connection they have with their community stems from living in the same neighborhoods and facing some of the same conditions.
Antonio Flores, a native of Mexico, found himself at the non-profit organization Latino Health Access in Santa Ana as a result of his own health problems.
“I was approached by a community worker who brought me here because I had no means of transportation and was surprised to find that I had a weight of 255 lbs, a glucose level of 550, cholesterol level of 350. I was diabetic,” he said in Spanish.
There he learned about healthy eating, the importance of exercise, reducing sodium and effectively monitoring his blood glucose index.
“After graduating from the program,” he said, “I found out what it truly meant and how I could be my own advocate.”
He was hired full-time as a promotor of diabetes control, management and prevention, and now offers free classes on type 2 diabetes prevention for other at-risk Latino patients.
“Although the pay is not a lot,” he said, “I know I am making a difference when my students who also suffer from diabetes tell me they learned more about how to control their diabetes than from their own primary care physician.”
Latino Health Access trains community members like Flores through free classes to educate their neighbors about health issues including diabetes, obesity, mental health and wellness.
One of the program’s achievements has been its partnership with Kaiser Permanente to help patients receive health education, counseling and free health services for the small rural community of Lost Hills in Kern County.
Latino Health Access also got a $3.5-million state grant to help build the first park in one of Orange County’s poorest neighborhoods, a half-acre Green Heart Park & Community Center that now sits near Station District.
Some of the organization’s other programs open to the public include counseling for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, free mammograms, nutrition counseling and youth leadership programs.
Although the organization graduates about 4,000 students per year, student outreach can sometimes be difficult. According to Flores, after promoting the free classes offered by the organization during a local church service of 600 congregants, about 50 people signed up, 25 attended classes and 12 graduated.
Through their fundraising efforts through grant writing, community events such as their yearly Tamalada, or tamale-making party, and campaign partnerships with local health providers, the organization has helped families access health care services and education.
“We know the importance and challenges of retention but with persistence we have come a long way in helping connect families with the right resources, [such as] funding for an important surgery,” said Flores, adding, “these are smart people that learn with their eyes and with their ears in this community. We are here with them every step of the way.”
To learn more about how to become a promotor at Latino Health Access, go to: www.latinohealthaccess.org.