IDAHO — Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic local “Promotores de Salud” - community health workers have played an important role in distributing COVID-19 information to vulnerable populations.
Glenda Gonzalez, Supervisor Community Health Worker at Saint Alphonsus was part of the team that set up a COVID-19 vaccine mobile site at St. Paul’s Catholic Church on Friday in Nampa.
“Promotoras de Salud is someone that can be outreaching to them and providing information to them, in their language-culturally appropriate language and just giving reliable facts of COVID-19,” Gonzalez said.
Promotores are known to have built trust with the communities they serve.
“The ones that go and provide outreach to these specific populations we’re working with. We’re working with especially with the Hispanic and Latino populations as well as the Black and African American populations and other underserved populations,”
At the start of the pandemic, community health workers had to adapt.
“We had to stop visiting patients in their homes and we did everything telephonically. It was hard to reach this population. Our focus right now is going in person to the community and getting the facts that we need for COVID-19,” Gonzales said.
Glenda is part of the Hispanic /Latino COVID-19 task force in Nampa.
“We can provide culturally appropriate information and that is in their language and putting out PSAs about the COVID-19 vaccine,” Gonzalez said.
Connecting with the populations most affected by the virus, local state data showsHispanics make up nearly 19 percent of the state's COVID-19 cases but represent about 12.8 percent of the population statewide.
“Community health workers I think are shining in this moment of the COVID-19 pandemic both before we had the vaccine and after having the vaccine. But they’re critical to the health systems even beyond the COVID pandemic time period,” said Jennifer Palagi, Vice President of Community Health and Well-Being for all of Saint Alphonsus Health System.
Palagi said at Saint Alphonsus they’ve been building a “social care hub”, which connects social care and clinical care.
“Community health workers are non-clinical peers from the community they serve that work closely with our clinical people like nurses and physicians and together they helped address social issues that can get in the way of getting good care such as transportation, language access, simple access to appointments that otherwise wouldn’t be available to them, child care issues, housing issues,” Palagi said.
Palagi said the team of community health workers is growing.
“When you’re a health ministry or health system that's trying to serve people not just through an individual encounter, but to served a person or family for life it's important to have community health workers that start that relationship and help us sustain it long term," she said.
On Thursday, Palagi also released a statement about their COVID-19 vaccine outreach efforts.
“COVID-19 has disproportionately affected many groups including communities of color, seniors, and medically under-served communities. Saint Alphonsus’ mission, to serve in the spirit of the Gospel as a compassionate and transforming healing presence within our communities, compels us to address these inequities.
“Our Community Health & Well-Being (CHWB) team is reaching out to those who have faced difficulties in securing vaccination appointments and meet the criteria, including but not limited to communities of color, people experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity, persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, refugees and persons with limited English proficiency, rural residents, homebound older adults, and other vulnerable community members. These Idahoans experience real and perceived barriers to scheduling their vaccines.
“In our efforts to ensure equitable access, we are assisting the above community members in making appointments for our vaccination clinic in Meridian, and where possible, we are bringing our care teams to churches, community centers, and residential settings where we can vaccinate those who request it. The appointments are made in addition to those publicly available at www.saintalphonsus.org/getvaccinated [saintalphonsus.org], and through collaboration with community partners.
“While we are dependent on vaccine availability to the states, we are doing all we can to make it possible for every eligible Idahoan who wants to get vaccinated to secure an appointment either at our main clinic or through mobile clinic outreach.”