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“Why should I validate their culture when they’re not validating mine?”

Working with Colorado Access we had the pleasure of supporting 3 school vaccination clinics last week: On Monday, at Aurora’s Fulton Academy of Excellence for its back to school event. CAHEP provided the vaccines, and the lovely CDPHE mobile health nurses provided the childhood and Covid-19 vaccinations. Then on Wednesday at the Denver Public School Annual Back to School kick off at Central Park sponsored by the Black Family Advisory Council. I was delighted to connect with Denver Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Alex Marrero while there. And Thursday/Friday at Denver’s Maxwell Elementary School Vaxathon for back to school registration. The fantastic vaccination team from the Public Health Institute at Denver Health (PHIDH) provided the vaccines and the vaccinators at the Denver locations. At Maxwell, with our Promotoras and PHIDH team, we joined the community in Zumba dancing! The community got to see Public Health not just as clinicians out on a job but also as actual people alongside them having fun, too.

All clinics should have that element of fun and validating of culture that way. That’s a big part of authentic community engagement! 

With that, last week we did something to reverse the Colorado decline in childhood vaccination that we all know needs all hands on deck to address. It was a small something yes, but it becomes more significant when authentic community engagement is put into action to build trust with families who tell their friends and families, who then tell their friends and families, etc. starting the snowball of a new narrative in those communities.

Because narratives like this must change: Last week I was at the Mexican consulate on personal business. And like everyone I had to wait. But I took advantage of the wait to talk to fellow paisanos about their lives in our country. And of course I asked them about their health experience here. I wasn’t surprised when the people I talked to defined their mistrust of American health. Like “Only go to the doctor here if you’re really, really sick. If you go to a doctor with just one condition, he’s going to tell you that you have other serious conditions and need to come back. Doctors here only want to make money off of you!! You’re documented so you can go to Juarez for health care. They care for you there. For me, I won’t go to an American doctor or take my kids unless we’re really sick. I can’t afford it!”

Mistrust. Our primary care providers need to be aware of how strict clinical connections, without authentic community engagement, can feed mistrust like this. And then act to counter that mistrust.

I was grateful to provide cultural validation training last week for 3 separate groups: the health faculty at Regis University, CDPHE mobile nurses, and SE2-Change for Goodwhich is contracting with CDPHE to promote exploration of change. In those trainings a brave person might ask the elephant in the room question, “Why should I validate their culture when they’re not validating mine?” My answer: When you’re in someone’s home you respect their culture, customs, language, faith beliefs don’t you? You put aside the biases you might have. Validation requires respect, even if you might disagree. Respect that can be felt and is genuine. It’s especially important in public health where we have a mission to build trust in health, acknowledging the roots of the mistrust. When the community senses respect we have a foundation to address the mistrust that has a chance of changing those feelings. You can’t do that without respect.


  • Latest from HCPF: in June, 34% of those with June Medicaid renewals lost eligibility for procedural reasons such as not completing renewal paperwork. It was 12% prior to the Pandemic. How can you complete renewal paperwork, when you don’t understand it? So focus groups, where people live, in the hearts of the neighborhoods, continue. They must tell us how we must improve Medicaid renewal.
  • This past week we talked to community in the Terrance Park Apartments.
  • Coming up August 24th at 11am MDT, I’ll be participating in an online panel discussion, “Impact of Covid-19 on the Hispanic Communities”. My focus will be strategies that have shown success in getting unvaccinated Latinos vaccinated and then keeping them current on their vaccinations. You can register to attend at Live Panel Discussion.