The Latinx community recognizes promotoras/es as community health workers who build bridges between clinical care and local residents. These Spanish-speaking community health workers help patients navigate the healthcare system. With the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital that non-English speaking communities gain access to critical resources. To promote health equity, the Board of Supervisors today approved a motion authored by Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis directing the County to expand its Promotoras Programs in order to reach more culturally and linguistically diverse and underserved communities.
“COVID-19 has changed the landscape on how families seek help. In this public health crisis, it is crucial that our immigrant communities know of services that will help them stay healthy,” said Supervisor Solis. “In our Latinx community, promotoras are trusted community members who share the ethnicity, language, and life experiences of the communities they serve. They are lay health workers who respect the nuances of our underserved populations. Now is the time to expand this critical service to include communities that speak a language other than English or Spanish. I will not stop working to erase disparities in access to quality health care.”
The LA County Departments of Public Health (DPH) and Mental Health (DMH) both have Promotoras Programs that connect Spanish-speaking communities to resources that bolster their health and mental well-being. ‘Promotores de salud,’ also known as promotoras, is the Spanish term for ‘community health workers.’
In 2017, DMH and DPH promotora/es raised community awareness about Exide. They worked with public health nurses and visited 174 local private clinics to inform them of Exide’s lead contamination, and they informed local residents of blood lead testing. Promotora/es also conducted door-to-door community outreach to homes within 1.7 miles from the Exide facility.
Outreach teams visited households in Vernon, East Los Angeles, Commerce, Maywood, Bell, Boyle Heights, and Huntington Park. More than 194 outreach campaigns and 23 presentations were conducted to offer families resources, health education information, and health screenings. Promotora/es continue to advocate for these communities and are assisting with outreach for the lead abatement programs.
Today’s motion directs DMH and DPH to provide a 90-day report back on the feasibility of each department expanding their Promotoras Programs in communities that primarily speak Arabic, Armenian, Cambodian, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Mandarin, among others. The report back must also identity potential funding streams. The departments must also conduct a cross-walk between the roles of promotora/es and those of other disciplines such as home visitors and doulas.
In addition, through the motion, DMH will set up a network of grassroots mental health “ambassadors.” As part of its response to COVID-19 Trauma Recovery, DMH will train these ambassadors to serve as a lay mental health workers whose services will range from helping with contact tracing to encouraging immigrants to fill out the census. Language barriers, and rhetoric in our current political climate, have made many refugees, immigrants, and migrant workers avoid the census. DMH’s ambassadors will encourage immigrants to fill out the 2020 Census form.
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