Making its debut, National Community Health Worker Awareness Week is a national campaign observed from Aug. 28 to Sept. 1, 2023, to commemorate, collaborate and celebrate community health workers, also known as promotores.
The weeklong celebration is founded by the National Association of Community Health Workers to raise awareness and recognize the role, identity and impact of community health workers (CHWs) in historically under-resourced and marginalized communities, highlighting their leadership and contributions.
This week is an opportunity to showcase the history and importance of CHWs and highlight local CHWs and community-based organizations’ efforts to improve health equity in San Diego.
What is a Community Health Worker?
A community health worker (CHW), also known as a promotores in Spanish-speaking communities, is a frontline public health worker who plays an important role in promoting and improving the health and well-being of individuals and communities, particularly for historically under-resourced or marginalized populations. CHWs are typically members of the community they serve, sharing common cultural backgrounds, languages and experiences with the people they assist.
About the San Diego County Promotores Coalition
The San Diego County Promotores Coalition (SDCPC) is a collaborative of more than 25 members, 130 partner organizations, and over 200 community health workers (CHWs) and promotores committed to advancing the community health worker model.
SDCPC is also one of our 2023 Healthy Children & Families CHW/promotores grantees that promotes, values, and recognizes the work of CHWs and supports organizations that work with CHWs/promotores to increase access and services to residents of San Diego County. San Diego Foundation awarded the organization a $25,000 grant earlier this year to help support SDCPC’s mission and vision.
SDF is committed to strategic learning and knowledge-sharing that builds on insights, experiences, and reflections of our partners to improve the quality of life in our region.
Interview with San Diego County Promotores Coalition
Amanda Schultz Brochu, Director at the San Diego County Promotores Coalition, spoke to us about how the role of CHWs/promotores has evolved and the impact CHWs have in our local San Diego communities. Responses have been edited for clarity and length.
Can you briefly describe your role with the San Diego County Promotores Coalition?
As the Director at SDCPC, my job is to support the coalition in developing collaborative and innovative strategies that support CHWs/promotores, their employers, and the diverse communities we collectively serve.
How has the role of CHWs and promotores evolved or become more crucial since the COVID-19 pandemic?
During COVID-19, CHWs were naturally poised to serve as crucial bridges, connecting people with information and resources in ways that were culturally informed and accessible. In many cases, CHWs/promotores were fulfilling these roles before they were institutionally developed or recognized, acting as informal contact tracers by activating their vast personal networks, distributing food to neighbors they knew were unable to get out, and updating families with the latest information when formal information systems became inaccessible.
Since COVID, the CHW model is recognized nationally as an evidence-based, community-centered approach to equitably increasing knowledge, access, agency and resiliency within diverse communities.
The SDCPC is known for collaborating with various organizations. How has this collaboration enhanced the coalition’s ability to support communities?
The San Diego County Promotores Coalition is a true “coalition” in every sense of the word in that we employ a shared leadership model to set collective priorities, share resources and develop collaborative strategies to propel individual efforts and advance sector-wide approaches to community health work.
Our diverse membership, including individual community health workers and promotores, social service agencies, community clinics and healthcare settings, government agencies, academic institutions and healthcare plans, brings a rich set of perspectives, expertise and resources together.
What are some of the challenges local CHWs face, and how has your organization overcome them to continue making a difference?
It is an exciting time for CHWs/promotores across San Diego County and the state in that there is historic attention and funding invested into CHW/promotores models.
While investment provides the opportunity for the deepening and expansion of sustainable approaches to community health, the quickly evolving landscape can be challenging to keep up with for both individuals and organizations. Now, we are hearing roadmaps are needed to help CHWs/promotores navigate and connect to emerging training and employment opportunities. We are also hearing that there is a need to help organizations considering engaging CHWs to develop and integrate models that are effective and sustainable.
The San Diego County Promotores Coalition meets these challenges by hosting spaces for CHWs/promotores and agencies to come together, learn from one another, and develop collaborative strategies. SDCPC translates those learnings into tangible resources and initiatives that deepen connection, expand engagement, and ultimately improve health!
Are there any goals or initiatives that you’re excited about for the upcoming year?
The Coalition is gearing up for a number of exciting CHW/promotores workforce development initiatives, including our upcoming on November 17, 2023, Transforming Communities Together, Creating an Equitable Future!
We are also excited to announce that we will be adding a brand-new track to our conference for CHWs/promotores for employers to learn about exciting new opportunities and developments to explore, build or grow a community health worker program.
Healthy Children & Families Initiative
Launched in the fall of 2021, the Healthy Children & Families Initiative supports the SDF Strategic Plan by advancing community resilience through health equity and increasing the well-being of children and families through expanded access to supportive services.
Learn more about the Healthy Children & Families Initiative.