Since the early 2000s, the Health Initiative of the Americas (a program of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health) has organized a yearly conference to bring together health promoters – promotoras and promotores – from the US and Mexico. By building bridges, deepening partnerships and forging connections between the people who serve immigrants in their new country and those that serve the communities where the immigrants come from in Mexico, the Health Initiative develops a binational model of promotores that better anticipates and responds to the health needs of people in both countries. At this year’s conference Dr. America Bracho of Latino Health Access delivered a keynote that energized participants, reaffirming how critical it is for community members to build upon their unique strengths, especially through promotora programs as described in their Recruiting the Heart, Training the Brain.
Mental health was a prominent feature of the meeting this year. The US government has declared war on immigrants, as well as Latinos and people of Mexican descent. Anti-immigrant actions are increasingly visible and perverse: individuals are arrested when reporting to immigration-related appointments, picking up their kids at school, attending occupational health and labor arbitration proceedings, and seeking health services at clinics and hospitals. This persecution makes people feel unsafe and puts them in a constant state of anxiety and fear. With the threat of arrest disrupting every aspect of daily life, people have begun withdrawing their children from school, refusing to report unsafe conditions and the injuries they cause at work, and avoiding medical care. This harms our society as a whole.
The HIA conference featured 2 sessions on mental health focused on self-care and depression. Another session offered extensive general and specialized information on the rights of immigrants both in the US and in Mexico. People’s questions throughout the conference – what are our rights to access our money through the banking system, how can we talk with our children about immigration, and where can we find support – highlight how the immigrant community has been hurt by this aggressive, inhumane campaign against immigrants. At the same time, the solutions raised also made clear that health promoters are vitally important in connecting people with resources that will help them cope, protect their families, and improve their health and well-being.
Community health workers do much more than help deliver health to people who need it. That’s why Hesperian’s books help prepare promotoras and promotores to deal with all kinds of topics, ranging from environmental health, cancer, health at work, and maternal health, to diabetes, stress & mental health, chemical hazards and first aid. See all of our resources in English, Spanish, and in over 80 languages.