Environmental Factor, July 2008, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Training Community Health Advocates in South Tucson
By Denise Moreno Ramírez
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) and Superfund Basic Research Program(http://superfund.pharmacy.arizona.edu/) (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.)
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.)