I know we’ve been writing quite a bit about promotoras on this blog. They are, after all, an integral part of the Latino Leadership Council’s programs. But they do so much more than the Zumba classes we’ve referenced here. They are really the boots on the ground and the bridges between the community and the available services and information. Since they’re so important to us, I thought it would be good to share a little bit more about what the promotoras do and the great value they bring to our community.
For those unfamiliar with what promotoras are, they are community health workers who work directly with the Latino community to help educate families about a variety of health issues.
But here’s where it gets really interesting—whereas typical community health workers and social workers are trained individuals who are brought into a community to work with and help that community, promotoras are the complete opposite. Promotoras are everyday people who are already living, working and engrained in the community and are selected for their existing ties and position in their community. In this case, “position” doesn’t mean elected position or even formal position. What we mean is that they are already individuals who are trusted by their peers and neighbors. They are the individuals others go to when they have problems, need advice or even just want to gossip over a cup of coffee. We identify those individuals and invite them to join us in reaching out to and helping the community.
So instead of bringing trained individuals into the community, we select individuals from the community and train them. These become promotoras.
Promotoras work directly with families and individuals. They do everything from home visits to health presentations to small groups, from accompanying a person to a doctor’s visit to helping interpret when needed. But more importantly, they are a trusted source with whom the community feels comfortable.
There is a lot of mistrust between the Latino community and health care and social service providers. Many times this stems from negative past experiences, a sense of discrimination or even concern over documentation status. The promotoras serve as a great bridge to help link the community with the needed services. They also help agencies and organizations better serve the community by advocating that services be rendered in a culturally competent manner. They help individuals and families navigate the system and help enhance overall community wellness.
For example, Indira, one of our promotoras, is partnering with the Placer County Children’s System of Care to support families who enter the system through Child Welfare Services. As you can imagine, entering the system can be very difficult for someone with language limitations who may already mistrust in the system. Add to the mix the welfare of their child and it can be a very intimidating experience. Indira helps those families navigate the system, know what to expect and ensure that they understand everything that is happening. She shares information with them, advocates on their behalf and supports them as they go through the process. The social workers involved with Indira’s families report immediate results when the promotora accompanies families to their meetings. They report that families share more information and feel more supported. But the social workers themselves also feel the benefits. They feel more culturally aware and better able to work closely with the Latino families, leading to better outcomes.
We’re really proud of what our promtoras are doing throughout the Placer community. As we continue to grow the program, we hope to reach more families and help improve our neighborhoods and communities from within.