From Texas Public Radio:
In a classroom on San Antonio’s West Side, women of all ages were learning the latest on the Zika virus, an emerging public health concern.
“You have to be able to listen to the rumors or the fears and then answer them with facts and evidence,” explained Fernando Martinez, Ph.D. He trains community health workers for San Antonio’s Northwest Vista College at a campus called the Westside Workforce Education and Training Center (WETC).
More than 400 graduates of the program are already working for South Texas hospital systems, Planned Parenthood, the Food Bank, even insurance companies. Almost all of the promotoras return to their home neighborhoods to serve.
“They go back into communities that they very much identify with culturally, linguistically, and by life experience,” Martinez said. “Clinicians often don’t have the time to really have an influence on the individual’s behavior. The community health workers who does develop a relationship with those folks, they have the ability to influence their behavior in a more positive direction which helps them manage the effects of the disease.”
The Latina women in this class bring a cultural perspective. “So, so many people, they don’t know about the mosquito because they don’t have the time,” one student observed. “Sometimes they don’t watch TV. They don’t have any news. Especially the Mexican, they don’t care. I mean, they’re macho. They’re not going to get sick.”
While 90 percent of the promotoras the college graduates are women, Martinez would like to see more men get involved. There will be more chances for employment in the field soon. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this field will grow by double digits in South Texas , 13 percent, by the year 2024. The Department of Labor reports the starting salary for a certified community health worker is $33,000 a year. And it’s higher for those with an associates degree. Melanie Jauregui is a bilingual trainee from the South Side of San Antonio who’s making public health her career.