Clueless or Racist?

OC Supervisor John Moorlach - Photo: Chris Prevatt

When I read the Voice of OC headline “County Supervisors Balk at Use of Spanish Word in Health Promotion” I had to ask myself the simple question, are they clueless or racist? After watching the discussion on the video (#31 @ 2 .14.00), I’m leaning towards clueless.

The Supervisors were being asked to approve a $1.5 million contract with Latino Health Accessto deliver mental health outreach and education to underserved populations in Orange County. The Request For Proposals (RFP) for the services called for the contractor to provide services using the Promotorahealth education model. The contract is paid for with Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) funds.

From the Voice of OC story:

This week, county Supervisor John Moorlachheld up more than $1.5 million in funding for a mental health services contract because the nonprofit that administers the service uses a Spanish word, promotora, instead of “health care worker.”

“Does it have to be called promotora?” asked Moorlach.

That piqued the interest of Supervisor Shawn Nelson, who wondered aloud why the program uses a Spanish name if it serves a countywide population. Nelson then also questioned why Latino is used in the name of the nonprofit.

Nelson called the name “ridiculous” and added that “unless this agency wants to rename itself, I have no interest in supporting this kind of approach.”

The Promotora service model is specifically identified for use in the Orange County plan for the use of MHSA funds by the State Department of Mental Health and outlined in the June 2011 addendum to the plan. From page 3:

Promotora Model-Community Health Educators:The Promotora (or Health Promoter in English) Model uses a community health educator approach to educate and provide parenting resources to communities. The Promotora model of community outreach is based on a Latin-American program type that reaches underserved populations through peer education. This means Promotoras are members of the communities with which they liaise. This model can also be used as a tool during outreach and engagement activities.

Promotoras take the community health worker model one step further because they speak the same language, come from the same neighborhood, and (commonly) share some life experiences with the community members they serve. In this forum, Promotoras provide parents/caregivers (including other family members such as grandparents) with parenting education and resources to assist at-risk children and adolescents. This model uses trusted community members, who are already entrenched in specific communities (Latino, API, Older Adult, etc).

One would hope that such a description of what the Promotora model is would have provided enough detail for Supervisor Moorlach to understand that Promotora is the name of a specific method of community health education, not simply a name that can be changed to “Community Health Worker.” The name Promotora describes the model of service delivery, not what is being delivered. The model was chosen specifically because it has been proven as an effective way to reach underserved communities and is transferable to diverse ethnic communities.

R. Shawn Nelson, 4th District Supervisor

To Supervisor Shawn Nelson, who took exception to the name of Latino Health Access as a reason not to fund them to provide services to a county-wide multi-ethnic community, I suggest he simply read the organization’s Mission Statement.

The mission of Latino Health Access is to assist in improving the quality of life and health of uninsured, under-served people through quality preventive services and educational programs, emphasizing responsibility and full participation in decisions affecting health.

Latino Health Access has served the Orange County Community for a significant period of time and has successfully performed as a contractor with the County on dozens of contracts throughout its history. The contractor scored highest with their proposal and they responded appropriately to the RFP, which asked bidders to propose services based on the Promotora model. In fact, all of the agency’s services are based on the Promotora delivery model. From the agency website.

All of the Latino Health Access programs rely on the Promotores model for their fresh, effective, in-culture and practical approach.

Promotores de Salud are highly trained community health workers. They are recruited and hired from the communities where they live. They are educators and role models, who are highly skilled at leading their peers toward wellness.

Latino Health Access has been on the cutting edge of the Promotores movement for the past ten years. LHA assists other groups across the nation develop Promotores’ programs by offering a two-day, Basic Promotor Training.

While their statements and questions certainly appeared to have racist undertones, I’m sure that if someone could find a wealthy, white, Republican, who can speak their language to explain the concept of community based health education, their lack of understanding can be cleared right up.

  3 comments for “Clueless or Racist?

  1. keepdapeace
    June 9, 2011 at 9:27 am

    C’mon. We’re talking about Republikan elected officials.Of course they are racist, even when they don’t realize it.

  2. Kathy Findley
    June 11, 2011 at 10:17 am

    It sounds racist to the point on nit picky racist to me. I continue to be embarrassed by Orange County politicians as usual.

  3. Dont speak spanish
    June 16, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Latino Health Access doesn’t sound like a group focused on the entire community now does it. How about my Asian Health Works clan win this bid and watch you hippocratic Latino’s complain.

    The name doesn’t fit, plain and simple.

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