Building Trust, Building on Strengths
Today’s blog is written by Natalia Valenzuela Swanson, Program Director, Healthy Eating | Active Living, Mary Black Foundation
Hispanic Heritage Month
October 15 is the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15 each year in the United States. Throughout the month, we have seen recognition and celebration of the gifts and contributions that the Hispanic/Latinx community brings to Spartanburg. This past Friday, PASOs Spartanburg held their own colorful and joyful Hispanic Heritage Celebration. This is the second year of organizing this large fiesta, and this year, the featured country was Mexico. The room was beautiful in red, white, and green; the food included various traditional Mexican dishes; there were several folkloric Mexican dances; and a mariachi band closed off the evening. Though Hispanic Heritage Month ends, the celebrations don’t stop.
First, We Pause for Brief Definitions
The word “Latinx” is an all-gender term that references the ethnic or cultural identities of individuals who come from or whose ancestors come from Latin America. The term Hispanic refers to a category describing individuals who come from or whose ancestors come from a Spanish-speaking country.
Now, Back to the Celebrations
PASOs was established in SC in 2005 after research showed that Latinx families needed more support and information from a trusted source to address disparities and health inequities. Research also showed that the state’s systems were not prepared to close the gaps. The PASOs model is one founded on the trust the promotoras (community health workers) establish with the families they serve. It is culturally-specific and seeks to build on the strengths Latinx individuals and families bring. Since the organization’s founding in 2005, PASOs has grown to fully serve 12 counties in the state, including Spartanburg County. The Spartanburg site opened in 2017 through grant funding from the Mary Black Foundation.
Last week, the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP) deemed PASOs’ program, Health Connections as best practice.
Building Trust, Building on Strengths
Health Connections involves PASOs’ trained promotoras working closely with members of Latinx households including women, men, and children in a variety of settings such as clinics and community-based locations. Because they are bilingual and are themselves Latinx, the promotoras are able to build trust with immigrant families, even those who may otherwise be distrustful of institutions. From that position of trust, the promotoras conduct intake screening, which includes health needs as well as social determinants, to determine the needs of the participant or family. Based on this intake, the promotoras help participants select an appropriate goal that works toward addressing the need with their support. Goals might include establish a primary care provider, apply for or renew health insurance including Medicaid, receive a chosen birth control method, learn how to use public transportation to get to work/school/appointments, receive food or clothing, connect with specialty care for a health need, and many more. Depending on the needs of the participant, and their level of urgency, promotoras will first educate them on the issue, inform them of available resources that they are eligible for, and work to refer and connect them with the resources they need to achieve their goal(s). The promotoras then follow-up with the participant to determine the outcome of the goal and whether the referrals made were successful. (Description from PASOs.)
Julie Smithwick, founder and former executive director of PASOs states,
This designation by a national organization of PASOs’ flagship program as a best practice is the result of years of hard work by the statewide team of Community Health Workers and the PASOs support team. It’s confirmation that building on communities’ strengths through relationships of trust, and making sure the voices of disadvantaged communities are heard, results in tangible outcomes that help our state be stronger and healthier.
For more detailed information on this best practice, please visit the AMCHP website.
The PASOs team in Spartanburg provides this best practice and much more. As in other parts of the state, the PASOs team in Spartanburg is constantly building bridges through trust – bridges that connect the Latinx community to resources, and bridges that form community out of strengths. They are supporting resilience and they are empowering the Latinx community to build a reality that is more healthy, just, and beautiful, for all of us. This is something worth celebrating!