San Francisco Chronicle Examines Health Promoters Model for Immigrant Health Care
The San Francisco Chronicle on Monday examined health promoters, the "fast-growing grassroots network of community health advocates in California who work in low-income immigrant communities." The term health promoters comes from the Latin American phrase "promotores de salud," government-trained volunteer workers in nations such as Mexico who specialize in childhood vaccinations and labor and delivery in rural areas. In California, not-for-profit health clinics, county health departments and health maintenance organizations are "embracing the approach as a way to teach healthy habits and connect residents to medical care, especially the state's five million uninsured and those unfamiliar with the U.S. health care maze," the Chronicle reports.
The model has expanded in recent years to serve Chinese, Russian, Laotian, other immigrant communities and U.S.-born underserved communities. According to some estimates, the number of health promoters in California has tripled in the past decade, the Chronicle reports. Carl Rush, a researcher who has studied the field for the California Endowment, said there are about 8,000 to 10,000 paid and volunteer community health workers in the state. Several California community colleges offer courses to train health promoters, and Health Net is starting health promoter training this spring in certain areas of California.
Rita Cruz Gallegos, Health Net's director of Hispanic programs, said, "Part of the goal is educating those that come to the United States who may not know how the system works, so whenever they get sick they don't run to the emergency [department]." She added, "We're also building trust, so when people are in a position to purchase a health plan they keep Health Net in mind. It's an investment." Mario Gutierrez, a program director at the California Endowment, said the health promoter model is a "proven, effective means for increasing health awareness and community leadership and connecting a population to health providers ... and it's easily transferable to other cultures" (Hendricks, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/24).