Return to NIEHS | Current Issue
Increase text size Decrease text size

Training Community Health Advocates in South Tucson

By Denise Moreno Ramírez
July 2008

While members of the community had to make the physical trek to campus for their training, the curriculum was an effective way of bringing the university to the community and disseminating information that can impact the quality of life in South Tucson.
While members of the community had to make the physical trek to campus for their training, the curriculum was an effective way of bringing the university to the community and disseminating information that can impact the quality of life in South Tucson. (Photo courtesy of James Field)
The promotoras and their children enjoyed a breakfast snack as they began their day on campus. While the trainees remained with their instructors, the children went to science activities.
The promotoras and their children enjoyed a breakfast snack as they began their day on campus. While the trainees remained with their instructors, the children went to science activities. (Photo courtesy of James Field)
Before the training itself began, Meza, center, chatted with participants.
Before the training itself began, Meza, center, chatted with participants. (Photo courtesy of James Field)
Gandolfi, shown in the classroom before the trainees arrived, is UA SBRP director and Binational Center co-director.
Gandolfi, shown in the classroom before the trainees arrived, is UA SBRP director and Binational Center co-director. (Photo courtesy of James Field)
Estrella, right, is shown with one of the participants. She was on hand to translate for trainees who were not fluent in English.
Estrella, right, is shown with one of the participants. She was on hand to translate for trainees who were not fluent in English. (Photo courtesy of James Field)
During their training, the promotoras were introduced to the many Spanish-language resources that the program makes available. This booklet, whose title in English means "Arizona: Know Your Water," is also available as a downloadable pdf file in English and Spanish.

Funded in part by the NIEHS Superfund Basic Research Program(http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/srp/index.cfm), the University of Arizona conducted a "Fundamentals of Toxicology" workshop for a group of community health advocates known as promotoras (see text box below). A total of 19 female promotoras and one male promoter ventured to the UA campus for this half-day training session on April 19, 2008.

The program was coordinated by members of the University of Arizona's (UA) U.S.-Mexico Binational Center for Environmental Sciences and Toxicology(http://binational.pharmacy.arizona.edu/index.php) Exit NIEHS Website and Superfund Basic Research Program(http://superfund.pharmacy.arizona.edu/) Exit NIEHS Website (SBRP) in cooperation with Community Assist of Southern Arizona and Tucson Unified School District. To make the training more accessible for community members, the promotoras were encouraged to bring their children along to the program. Science educational activities were provided by the Flandreau Planetarium Science Center at UA.

UA SBRP Director Jay Gandolfi, Ph.D., and Instituto Tecnológico de Sonora Professor Mercedes Meza, D.Sc., taught the session while Ms. Rocio Estrella served as the event translator. Most of the participants live in South Tucson, a one square mile city of more than 5,000 residents, mostly Hispanic, which calls itself "the pueblo within a city" and is surrounded entirely by Tucson, Arizona.

The training objective was to increase the promotoras' level of knowledge in toxicology and epidemiology from both the Mexican and American academic perspective. During the instruction, Gandolfi focused on the fundamentals of toxicology while Meza described epidemiological studies and provided a case study from Sonora's Yaqui Valley (Valle del Yaqui). Presentations were produced specifically for the promotoras and featured culturally sensitive examples to which they could easily relate. During the training, participants received copies of the presentations and other materials to use as they work in their communities.

This training exemplifies the UA's Binational Center and SBRP efforts to decrease the gap between academia and the community. The science generated at UA is being readily translated by the Binational Center and SBRP for citizens - proving to be an effective, empowering tool for communities.

(Since 2005, Denise Moreno Ramírez has served as program coordinator, U.S.-Mexico Binational Center for Environmental Sciences and Toxicology and Superfund Basic Research Program Outreach Core at the University of Arizona.)

Monica Ramírez, left, and the author, Denise Moreno Ramírez, are shown at an earlier Binational Center event. While trainees learned about likely sources of toxic compounds, their children enjoyed science activities led by the two core coordinators.
Monica Ramírez, left, and the author, Denise Moreno Ramírez, are shown at an earlier Binational Center event. While trainees learned about likely sources of toxic compounds, their children enjoyed science activities led by the two core coordinators. (Photo courtesy of James Field)
Mothers escorted the younger children to the classrooms where the science activities were held.
Mothers escorted the younger children to the classrooms where the science activities were held. (Photo courtesy of James Field)
Although a few children remained behind, once the training began in earnest, most of the promotoras could attend to the instructors because childcare was provided.
Although a few children remained behind, once the training began in earnest, most of the promotoras could attend to the instructors because childcare was provided. (Photo courtesy of the University of Arizona SBRP)

Promotoras---The "Frontline Force" for Health Promotion and Disease Surveillance within Underserved Communities

By Rose Ramos

Promotora, the Spanish word meaning "expert" or "advocate," is used to describe a lay health advisor within the Latino community. Public health scientists are now appreciating the promotora as a health professional who is perfectly poised to reduce health disparities within underserved Latino communities.

Along the Southwest border of the U.S., the mission of the promotora has been embraced by federal agencies such as the CDC, the NIH, the SBRP and the EPA for community health outreach projects. These projects include increased awareness of the importance of preventive health care, including immunizations and screening for cancer and diabetes. Additionally, promotora-based outreach strategies have included information campaigns regarding environmental exposures to agricultural pesticides and metals, such as lead and arsenic, in abandoned industrial, mining and manufacturing sites.

Promotoras also have served an invaluable role within agricultural migrant communities across the U.S. Recognizing the tremendous barriers to adequate health care among migrant workers and their families, promotoras know that it is their responsibility to equip themselves with knowledge and resources in order to maintain the health of this vulnerable population. Today, the primary objectives of promotoras in the migrant worker communities are to increase prenatal care, reduce the incidence of low birth weight and prevent nutritionally-related disorders among young children.

(Rose Ramos, Ph.D. is NIEHS/NIH Health Disparities fellow working with the NIEHS Metastasis Group.)



"NIH Ethicist..." - previous story Previous story Next story next story - "Cidlowski Honored at Endo '08..."
July 2008 Cover Page

Back to top Back to top