New program improving how and where marginalized communities get health information

SAN ANTONIO – The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed a lot about our healthcare system, including the deep inequalities in minority communities.

“There are a lot of marginalized people out there – like people of color, women – who just don’t trust going to one of these clinics because they don’t know how they’re going to be treated” , said Ervinell Walters, who lives in San Antonio.

Walters is one of many people who get their information from places they trust: churches, community centers, food banks or housing programs.

“There is a lack of transport, so come to church. You will see the tents. We are kicking,” Walters said, giving an example of how his church has held COVID vaccination events.

The challenge is to ensure that these types of organizations have accurate health information.

“This is a first attempt to bring these organizations into the realm of health literacy and equip them to be able to provide better resources and accessibility to their clients,” said Melanie Stone, who is part of a team driving this change.

Stone is the assistant director of Community Service Learning at UT Health San Antonio.

UT Health San Antonio, Metro Health, and UTSA launched a nonprofit called Health Confianza last year, aimed at building health literacy in our community. This is the first program of its kind in the country.

One strategy is to ask organizations to make the health literacy pledge.

Ten organizations have just made the pledge, including Alamo Community Group, which owns 10 affordable housing units in San Antonio.

The first step after making the commitment is to do an internal assessment and identify what they need to improve.

“That could be making sure their documents are written in plain language, making sure they have good signs to navigate their organization, providing language interpretation services,” said Stone, director of the Health Confianza’s Health Literacy Pledge program.

For example, if a parent gives medicine to a sick child, he must be able to understand the instructions.

Offering instructions is part of an 8 month training for these organizations.

It’s a lot of work that people like Walters don’t take lightly.

“I’m grateful to know that I’m not going to be overlooked,” she said.

Health Confianza has several other strategies, including providing health education directly to community members. They do this through community health clubs that offer discussions and activities on topics such as mental health, COVID, nutrition and more.

Another strategy is to provide ambassador training to individuals, groups and companies, as well as education and training for healthcare professionals.

They also provide information, resources, and access to pop-up vaccination clinics.

Anyone, organization, or business interested in learning more is encouraged to email [email protected] or visit Healthconfianza.org.

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