OneWorld’s promotoras, or community health promoters, work to increase health care access and disease prevention within minority populations in Douglas and Sarpy counties. Our promotoras are peers and community members who connect with their neighbors, families, friends and communities to promote health and prevent disease. They focus on improving health outcomes by increasing access to and use of health care while promoting disease prevention, sexual literacy and behavior change to reduce risks. They also link individuals to OneWorld as a health care home and provide screenings and follow-up for heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

“The most rewarding part is seeing the change that you’re making for each person and knowing that, with just this one simple health screening, it’s opening up a door to more health care access,” Vivian Garcia, OneWorld’s Outreach Manager, said. “I think that, for me, seeing that people know that there’s someone here that cares for them is a good feeling.”

Though helping people live healthier lives is usually rewarding in the end, the process can be tricky. Garcia said it’s sometimes difficult for promotoras to walk the line between being respectful of people’s cultures and challenging certain cultural beliefs.

“It’s hard, because most people we see are coming from thinking, ‘My family had diabetes or hypertension, so I’m going to have it,’” she said. “So, sometimes, it’s a struggle to help them understand that there are specific things they can do to delay or prevent it.”

Luckily for the community, promotoras do not shy away from challenges. With the help of community partnerships, promotoras are always working to reach a wider audience. They reach out to various agencies like food pantries, schools and restaurants to see if they can visit to provide health screenings (blood pressure, glucose, BMI and more) and health education. Then, they set up at participating locations and invite passers-by to come in for screenings.

As they’ve become more well-known in the community, businesses have started to reach out to them for screenings. Recently, Garcia said, a local pork supplier requested health screenings for their employees, so with interpretation help in multiple languages, promotoras have been able to reach a new population.

“We’re used to working with the Hispanic/Latino population, but this company employs mostly Asian individuals and refugees,” Garcia said. “We’ve already had 67 people sign up.”

So far, the new partnership with the pork supplier has been rewarding. Recently, an individual told the health promoters through an interpreter that he was having trouble seeing, and they were able to assist him quickly and efficiently.

“He had glasses, but he was losing his vision,” Garcia said. “The interpreter was telling a promotora that he needed an eye doctor, but he didn’t know where to go … She called Dr. Schaffer, who has an eye clinic at OneWorld’s South Omaha campus, and within five minutes, he had an appointment and an interpreter to go with him.”

In order to help even more people access health care services, the promotoras will soon begin facilitating a free, yearlong diabetes prevention program In Sarpy County. The program is funded by the National Alliance for Hispanic Health. Trained wellness coaches will meet with participants every week for 6 months, then less frequently for the next 6 months.

“The goal is for participants to get out of pre-diabetic risk, lower their BMI and just have the tools to continue to eat healthy, be healthy and delay the onset of diabetes,” Garcia said.

Every day, with the help of community partners, OneWorld’s promotoras work to advance health equity and reduce health disparities in Omaha and the surrounding communities. To learn about National Minority Health Month and about how other organizations partner for health equity, click here.

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