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How once unreachable communities can then become reachable

Last Wednesday I participated in a 3 panel member webinar exploring “Impact of Covid-19 on Hispanic Communities”. The panel, moderated by a Latino doctor,  included 2 other Latino doctors and me. The target audience was health providers nationwide, especially those who don’t understand what’s up with their Latino patients. We panelists were all on the same page. The need to find more doorways to educate Latinos that preventative care is health. By the way, that’s a constant topic in my Tigre radio program. This to a community that is subject to misinformation and crazy stories on vaccine safety, not just Covid-19 but all vaccines, combined with a culture that does not include primary care as a norm. My part of the presentation discussing education to overcome barriers was based not only on my personal experience in health as well as being part of the Latino community, but also on other barrier research, like this from BMC Public Health.

My main points:

  • Providers: Streamline and simplify access. Do not require appointments, unless absolutely necessary. Permit at least some walk-ins. For appointments allow them by phone with a real human response and a bilingual option, avoiding voice mail.
  • Providers: Meet people where they live and work.
  • Providers: Engage your support staff trained in educating through cultural validation. Have them connect with community to be considerate and friendly and able to validate but also discuss anxiety about vaccination, well-child visits, PHE unwind, health concerns, etc. Don’t assume that community knows what they don’t know. This cultural validation and education could occur while community members are waiting to see the provider or, if a vax clinic, while the community member is sitting during the 15 minute post-vaccination wait.

Many clinicians, however, believe such education can be done adequately in the clinic. Thinking:  We’re good in our clinics. After all we see many Latinos there. There’s no need to invest in resources beyond the clinic and our clinic hours that are convenient for us.

By being siloed like that, those clinicians miss what they don’t see. They miss educating  those thousands not in their clinics that prevention is health. They miss building trust that, through actions, demonstrates a public health system that cares about everyone, not just those relatively few who come to their clinics. That failure is the heart of inequity in Colorado.

Advocating for the marginalized communities is a social responsibility even when it’s not profitable in the short term. Validating and respecting the culture but also educating through authentic community engagement is the only way to turn the negative equity direction around, our social responsibility in public health. At least I’ve seen no other Colorado public health alternatives promoted or practiced. Other than the same styles from 2019 when we didn’t have the Pandemic experience to show how serious the problem is. Have you?

That’s why I continue to promote and offer cultural validation training, like with the Grand County Public Health Department coming on August 29. I developed this course based not only on my past real life experience as a Latina immigrant with 2 children who was at one time in extreme poverty and marginalized herself, but also from what I learned organizing the 200+ vax clinics within the current marginalized Latino communities in the past 2 years. I share the perspectives and lessons learned from those experiences with providers and their staffs who’ve never had them. Teaching them how authentic engagement and cultural validation opens doors of communication that can melt mistrust in the communities they serve. How the trust that emerges builds the confidence that doesn’t exist right now in our health system. How once unreachable communities can then become reachable.


    • Our work in One School One Vaccination At a Time  continues. Latino and other kids of color, many unvaccinated, dominate the student bodies in most public schools in Metro Denver. That’s where we in public health should be (not just the clinics)! We’re lining up more schools this fall and into next year.
    • We continue to work with Latino families in focus groups to discern how HCPF Medicaid forms meant for Colorado’s Spanish language community can be better transcreated for understandability. In September we’ll review the Verification Checklist form.
    • Early Milestones Colorado, as part of its racial equity project, is sponsoring a webinar that the CEO of Colorado Access, Ms. Annie Lee, and I will be part of: Examining Latino Children’s Health and Health Care in Colorado. Come join us on Septembre 6 at 2:30pm. See attached flier. We’ll discuss research on health and health care outcomes among white and Latino children ages 0 to 8 in Colorado from 2016 to 2021 and what that means for today.Register here:
    • I outlined a number of speaking engagements in my last report. A new one I’ve been invited to is the Educating Children of Color summit at Colorado College in Colorado Springs on January 13, 2024. The theme is dismantling the cradle-to-prison pipeline for children of color and children in poverty through education.
    • Last week I was honored to receive the Association of Immunization Managers’ 2023 Immunization Champion Award for Colorado. I was especially grateful to be considered worthy to be in the company of so many state and other international vaccination champions! Our strategies might be different, but we have the same goals and can learn from each other!