The disproportionate burden of illness and chronic disease that affects poor and underserved populations is one of the injustices of our time. For this reason, the need to prioritize health equity has become a common thread binding all of San Juan Basin Health Department’s endeavors.
Health equity refers to ending inequalities that affect racial, low-income and other vulnerable populations to ensure that everyone will have fair and equal opportunities to achieve their best health. SJBHD has provided public health safety net services over the course of its 66 year history, and the Promotor Program is a perfect example of these efforts.
The Promotor Program was designed with the goals of increasing access to care and reducing the burden of chronic health conditions among local residents whose first language is Spanish. While the program will serve any low-income, underserved population, the focus is on the Hispanic/Latino communities of La Plata and Archuleta counties. Services provided by the program include health screenings, health coaching, health education, referrals, follow-up and translation.
The program aims to reduce health disparities by addressing the social determinants of health – any factors that contribute to a person’s state of health. This means that although many of the referrals made to clients are to primary-care providers, referrals are also made to address the client’s needs for transportation, housing support, food support, mental-health resources, insurance coverage and many others.
SJBHD partners with numerous local organizations and programs, both internal and external, to meet the health and wellness needs of our Promotora clients including La Plata Integrated Health, Cooking Matters, Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC), Nurse Family Partnership (NFP), local food banks and numerous others.
The key to the success of the Promotor Program is the trust between the promotors and their clients. Promotors have the unique ability to serve as a bridge between their clients and what can at times be a confusing and overwhelming health-care system.
The testimonials from those we serve have been numerous and moving, frequently referring to the life-changing impacts of the program. One woman called her promotora within hours of having her baby, thanking her for her help in ensuring that she had the care and support she needed for the healthy birth of her child.
Because of the recent expansion of the program, there are now two promotores in La Plata County – serving the communities of Bayfield, Durango and Ignacio – and one serving Archuleta County. The expansion of the program also includes addressing the need for communitywide understanding about the issue of health equity. SJBHD is initiating this work by providing cultural-competency training to local providers and organizations and will be convening community partners to initiate collaborative policy work addressing health equity needs.
Through the Promotor Program, individuals are supported, empowered and provided a trusted bridge to the health-care system. Important doors are opened through health screenings, health coaching and education. This leads us closer to a day when everyone will have fair and equal opportunities to achieve their best health.
Claire Ninde is interim Assessment, Planning and Communications director at San Juan Basin Health Department.