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Conference helps navigate through new world of wellness

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Posted: Monday, October 7, 2013 10:52 pm

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — About 60 South Texas Promotora Association members from as far away as Laredo attended the two-day forum here, seeking to emphasize the importance of personal development, discuss common health issues and answer questions about navigators and the health care reform.

A promotora, or community health worker, helps people gain access to needed services by organizing activities such as outreach, home patient visits, community health education, informal counseling, social support, advocacy and participation in clinical research, according to the Texas Department of State health Services website.

The two-day event was organized as part of Border Binational Health Week, a program coordinated by the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission focusing on health issues specific to the region.

“We call it STPA promotoras get it DONE because of Diabetes, Obesity, Nutrition and Excercise, and that is what we are focusing on today,” STPA CEO Merida Escobar said about the outreach efforts.

“It’s important to us that if people have questions (for us) that they get the same answer. We want them to have the most accurate and updated information especially because of the trust that individuals give from the community,” Escobar said.

The promotora and navigator forum, titled “It’s Our Turn,” helped the promotoras to provide consistent responses on topics they frequently encounter here, officials said.

“We got together to be on the same page, to learn about what is going on with health reform, and discuss nutrition, exercise and diabetes. We want to be conscious that we are on the same page, and we want to be prepared to help the community,” Elvia Alcala, Promotora de Salud and STPA Cameron County coordinator, said in Spanish.

“It’s very important that promotoras are prepared because we can better serve the community. We are the ones that knock on the doors, visiting families and advising them on recourses they have available, and telling them what clinics to go to, and where to find help,” Alcala said.

The promotoras also learned the importance of their own personal development from keynote speaker Alberto Treviño, who addressed them Sunday, and Fernando Martinez who spoke about empowerment during uncertainty.

“A lot of the time we don’t take time for ourselves. We need to take care of ourselves so that we can take care of others,” Minerva Garcia, a Hidalgo County promotora, said. “(We learned) how to take care of ourselves, how to be less stressed, and how to be good listeners so that in return we can be prepared and listen to our community.”

The forum continued Monday, when speaker Enrique Griego addressed obesity facts, challenges and strategies.

“We have seen a lot of obesity, especially in our teens. We have a lot of teens that are 12 or 13 that are overweight, but they do not consider themselves overweight because they are healthy,” Escobar said. “So how do we address things like that? We don’t want to insult people, but we also want to teach them about preventative checkups or screenings that can help them.”

Treviño spoke Monday about the Affordable Care Act, and the navigator concept, which officials said is similar to promotora work.

“The navigators are basically helping the community navigate through the Affordable Care Act, to see who qualifies, what families qualify, which is what the promotora already does with Medicaid and CHIP,” Escobar said, adding that several STPA promotoras are in the process of becoming navigator certified, and more are expected to participate in future training.

The promotoras also held a walk for cancer research at the beach, discussed strategies for capacity building, and participated in social events during the forum.

Persons seeking assistance from STPA promotora can reach the STPA office at 956-383-5393, or by email at