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Strenghening Collaboration with the Promotoras to Build a Happier, Healthier Caregiving Community

Santa Barbara Health Fair on May 20.

The mother of an adult with a developmental disability, a wife of a husband with cancer and daughter of an 87-year-old mother who needs assistance, Georgene Lowe, the Coordinator of the Health Linkages Program at the Santa Barbara County Education Office (SBCEO), is a caregiver. However, Lowe, like many other caregivers, did not always self-identify as a caregiver because of the general lack of awareness about what it means to be one. To strengthen awareness and, ultimately, develop a more integrated and inclusive health and social system, the Santa Barbara Foundation has teamed up with individuals like Lowe and the SBCEO network of Promotoras to develop solutions that will improve the quality of life for caregivers and their loved ones.

“The Promotoras are a trained group of Latino community health leaders who listen and collect information from people in their communities who face a variety of health issues,” said Lowe. “They are able to reach vulnerable and underserved members of Latino populations and support health education and prevention efforts. Through translation, listening and analyzing cultural nuances, they are able to connect their community to information, resources and the right kind of care which will improve the health of the county as a whole.”

The Promotora model was first introduced to SBCEO when Georgene Lowe hired Josefa Rios, South County Lead Promotora and Health Advocate, to assist on projects advancing children’s health and oral care. Prior to her role at SBCEO, Rios had been working with the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics with a group of women who were successfully improving health literacy and access in the Latino community. Using resources at SBCEO and Vision y Compromiso, Rios helped create a formalized Promotora curriculum and network in Santa Barbara County. Over the past ten years, the network has grown to include over 300 Promotoras and has developed into a workforce development model. Of the greatest importance, the Promotoras know the community that they are trying to help.

“As a wife, mother, daughter and caregiver myself, I found the training sessions and tools like the CareMap really helpful in identifying my own challenges and balancing my own emotions,” said Rios. “Now that I have experienced it myself, I get to go out into the community and learn how to help others self-identify, which is a learning experience, so I am so grateful to the Santa Barbara Foundation for helping facilitate this connection.”

The Santa Barbara Foundation became involved with the Promotoras when Phylene Wiggins, Senior Director of Community Investments at the Santa Barbara Foundation, knew she needed to partner with the Promotora network to successfully conduct surveys, expand training and build awareness for the Community Caregiving Initiative (CCI) among the Latino community.

“From the outset of the Community Caregiving Initiative, it was critical that we make a deliberate decision to engage the Latino community,” said Wiggins. “Our past collaborations with the Promotora network had laid a foundation on which to build, so it was a natural fit to connect with the group.”

CCI aims to support individual caregivers through effective programs and the development of community support networks. This year, the Santa Barbara Foundation continued funding the Promotoras with a Family Caregiver Systems & Support Grant so that the network can continue to increase awareness around caregiving, promote self-identification of caregivers and learn about the needs of caregivers in the Latino community.

“After working with the Santa Barbara Foundation on various projects for a number of years, I believe that the foundation serves as a responsive and engaged listener that addresses emerging needs in the community,” said Lowe. “I applaud Phylene for taking the lead on this project and bringing people together in a way that allows us to explore and learn together.”

Thus far, the project has successfully started conversations around caregiving and provided tools to increase awareness among caregivers in the Latino community, as evidenced by its work connecting Latinos in caregiving to the Alzheimer’s Association. Under the guidance of Maribel Landeros, Lead Promotora in Mid and North County, the Promotoras are also expanding projects that include mentoring Promotoras to conduct outreach and education in Lompoc and home visits with Marian Regional Medical Centers Caregiver Projects Health Navigator. Even with this level of engagement, the Promotoras also recognize that there is still a lot of work to be done to integrate caregiving into the health system. In the future, they hope they can begin to provide mental healthcare and other support resources to aid caregivers as they identify their challenges in caregiving.

“As we continue to develop the role of the Promotora network in the caregiving space, we are seeing that the community is beginning to engage around this issue, which not only allows us to continue learning together, but provides us with the unique opportunity to take action to educate and support caregivers to make a true difference,” said Lowe.

By expanding access to information, increasing awareness and listening to the challenges of caregivers, the Promotora network is able to help individuals who are caring for a disabled child, an ill husband, an elderly mother, or all three like Lowe, identify their challenges and work to build a healthier, happier life, and, therefore, a healthier, more resilient community.

To learn more about the Community Caregiving Initiative, visit the Santa Barbara Foundation website or contact Phylene Wiggins, Senior Director of Community Investments at pwiggins@sbfoundation.org.

info@sbfoundation.org
North County Headquarters:  (805) 346-6123  |   2625 S. Miller Street, Suite 101, Santa Maria, CA 93455
South County Headquarters:  (805) 963-1873  |  1111 Chapala Street, Suite 200, Santa Barbara, CA 93101