Even a trip to the doctor’s office can seem daunting when the admissions forms are written in English and a patient’s primary language is Spanish.
A collaborative project of Providence Portland and Providence St. Vincent medical centers, and Catholic Charities’ El Programa Hispano aims to build relationships between the Latino community, local churches and health care providers to make medical care more approachable for the Latino community of Oregon. Volunteer “health promoters” are trained to educate their friends, families and communities so language and cultural barriers are no longer a reason to avoid medical help.
“There are so many health disparities,” said Catherine Potter, a program director for the Parish Health Promoters program. “We know that Latino immigrants in our community have higher rates of some chronic conditions, like diabetes and HIV.”
The Latino community also has higher rates of uninsured, and less access to primary and preventative care means people are put at higher risk for other diseases, Potter said.
Once they graduate, the promoters return to their own parish communities and organize blood drives or free screening opportunities. They lead classes focused on exercise and nutrition.
They empower people to take control of their own health, using a peer-support model.
Last month, the most recent cohort of promoters graduated during a ceremony held at Ascension Church in Southeast Portland. The volunteers went through 60 hours of training over the course of 15 Saturdays. They are all Spanish-speakers, many immigrants themselves.
They will provide interpretation for medical appointments, help families locate resources for health care bills, provide tours of hospitals for Spanish-speaking patients, organize health fares, and serve as resources for social service referrals.
Since the program’s inception, more than 350 people have been trained through the east side program at Providence Portland and the west side program at St. Vincent. They serve more than 7,000 people a year across the Portland metro area.
Pietro Ferrari, executive director of Catholic Charities, congratulated the new graduates.
“This is a very special day. All of you are going to work in the community to better the way Hispanics live,” Ferrari said. “It is very important to know that you are going to serve your community with dignity and bring hope to everyone by supporting healthy living.”
Promoter Aurelia Sánchez said she hopes to raise awareness in her community about how to live a healthy life. Claudia Carrillo underwent the training in order to serve people in need in her community.
The new health promoters are: Aurelia Sánchez, Claudia Carrillo, Cristina Díaz, Gladys Alvarado, Héctor Osuna, Imelda Elizarraraz, Irma Jiménez, Jackeline Luna, Jessie Osuna, Josefina Osorio, Lina Natalia Durán, Lourdes Resendiz, Lucy Tovar, María Macías, María Pérez, María Eloisa González, María Luisa González, Marisol Negrete, Melissa Pablo, Norma Moreno, Oscar Gutiérrez, Patricia Reyes, Pedro Sandoval, Rosa Hernández, Rosalva Orozco, Rosenda Gavin, Susana Espino, Victoria Ríos and Yolanda de la Cruz.