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To help Americans recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Biden Administration passed the American Rescue Plan in 2021.
Since then, funds have been allocated to improve the health and wellbeing of Americans, including more than $226M to grow the community and public health workforce.
Announced on Sept. 30, 2022, this large sum will specifically help train community health workers (CHWs) who connect people to healthcare, build trust within communities, and facilitate communication between patients and healthcare providers, according to a US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) press release.
“Patients depend on community and public health workers for care and medical information,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in the press release. “These investments will equip community and public health workers with the skill sets needed to provide effective community outreach, increase access to care, and assist individuals with critical prevention and treatment services.”
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) estimates that the funding will help train 13,000 new CHWs.
Part of the funding will also go toward training people for careers in public health, such as epidemiology.
How Do CHWs Help Latinos?
Also known as promotoras de salud and patient navigators, CHWs can greatly benefit Latino health.
For example, CHWs help break language barriers by providing culturally tailored health education and interpretation and translation services, which can lead to faster cancer diagnoses and improved health outcomes in Latino cancer patients.
Additionally, since CHWs typically reside in the community they serve, they have a deep understanding of the community’s health needs and knowledge of the most effective ways of meeting those needs.
For instance, CHWs have been effective in decreasing stigma and increasing uptake of physical and mental health services in many Latino communities.
Dolores Garcia, a project coordinator for the Community Outreach and Engagement Program for the Mays Cancer Center at UT Health San Antonio, described how one patient benefitted from culturally tailored health education.
“One time I had someone come up to me and say, ‘I had no idea what a diet looked like for a diabetic. And here I am eating all these things that I am not supposed to be eating. Now that you have explained it in Spanish, I know exactly what to do.’ A month later he had lost 15 pounds. The advice that I gave in his native language really helped him,” Garcia said.
CHWs also continue to be vital in slowing the spread of COVID-19 among Latinos.
CHWs have helped countless Latinos receive the COVID-19 vaccine in healthcare settings, mobile vaccine clinics, community health centers, churches, and other community gathering spots. They have also been instrumental in debunking the myths and misinformation about the virus.
“Community health workers help bridge the gap between healthcare settings and the community,” said Dr. Amelie Ramirez, director of Salud America! and its home base, the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio.
“This funding is a great step forward to broaden the skill sets of CHWs and increase the amount of CHWs available to provide services for our nation’s vulnerable populations, such as Latinos. Without the important work of CHWs, patients who face barriers to healthcare may not be able to get the help they need, which affects all of us and the future of public health.”
You can help advocate for health equity and public health, too.
Select your county and get a Health Equity Report Card by Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio.
In your report card, you will see maps, data, and gauges to compare health equity and public health issues to the rest of your state and nation.
You can email your Health Equity Report Card to local leaders to stimulate community change. Use the data in your materials or share on social media to raise awareness.