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New Center for Healthy Neighborhoods Program to Train Local Residents in Health Promotion

CHN Neighborhood Health Advocates

The Center’s new Latino/a Neighborhood Health Advocates
program provides health promotion training to community
members.

Thanks to a $40,000 gift to the CSUF Center for Healthy Neighborhoods, local families may avoid a trip to the emergency room.

The gift will create the Center’s new Latino/Latina Neighborhood Health Advocates (NHA) program, which aims to increase access to healthcare and social services for underserved, Spanish-speaking families by training local residents in health promotion and connecting them with other community members. Data collected over the program’s nine-month period may uncover new ways to reduce health disparities for linguistically isolated communities vulnerable to preventable health issues. The program, funded by Kaiser Permanente, kicks-off this fall.

“The NHA program is a great addition to the Center. Immigrant communities that live in the neighborhoods that surround the Center will learn new ways to be more resilient,” said Center Director and NHA program Co-Director Dr. Jessie Jones.

Low-income, linguistically isolated communities experience high rates of preventable emergency room visits. Cultural norms, lack of awareness, poor health literacy, affordability, and a sense of distrust spurred by today’s political climate keep many families from seeking timely medical care. Poor access to healthcare often results in residents not receiving routine checkups or seeking treatment until a condition is more advanced.

The Center’s neighborhood health advocates are personally familiar with these challenges. As members of the community themselves, they’re able to quickly build trust and rapport with the community.

“Neighborhood health advocates understand the language and culture, and experience the same barriers to education, work, and healthcare access. Their commitment is personal and is aligned with cultural values of collectivism and honoring the family unit,” said NHA Project Director and College of Health and Human Development Assistant Professor of Nursing Dr. Maria Matza.

The NHA program will be carried out in partnership with the Fullerton School District and local health and social service agencies. Fifteen local residents — parents recruited from local Title 1 elementary schools — will be trained as community health workers who provide basic health assessments, referrals, and follow-ups to 15 or more community members per month. They will receive mentoring and support from student supervisors from the College of Health and Human Development’s Nursing, Social Work, Health Science, and Human Services programs. Community partners and NHA Project Directors will provide additional health promotion training every month.

By June of next year, the Center’s neighborhood health advocates will have helped more than 2,000 local residents access needed health and social services.

The Latino/Latina Neighborhood Health Advocates program is one of three new services offered at the Center. Financial literacy and entrepreneurship courses and the Smart Brain, Wise Heart program, which aims to improve emotional health and academic achievement among seven to 12 year olds, will also start this fall. The Center has provided free health and social services to more than 450 families since opening in January 2016.