Latino populations are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. The CDC reports that Latino people are 2.8 times more likely to get COVID-19 than white, non-Hispanic populations. They’re also 4.6 times more likely to be hospitalized because of the virus.
The American Heart Association is working to make a difference. In 2019, Blue Cross NC began a three-year investment of $750,000 in the association’s programs, including Promotores de Salud.
The program trains community ambassadors in the fight against cardiovascular disease, a condition that may increase risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms.
The initial plan was to train about 60 Spanish-speaking ambassadors. Those ambassadors would help educate Latino communities in Charlotte and the Triangle about the dangers of cardiovascular disease. At the same time, the association hoped to increase education about prevention and management of COVID-19.
Like many events this year, what started as an in-person effort has now gone virtual.
After a nine-week virtual training program, the group of community ambassadors graduated in June.
The ambassadors – the vast majority of whom are Spanish-speaking women – are from all across North Carolina. They represent many cities, including Charlotte, Raleigh, Knightdale, Hillsborough, Chapel Hill, and Durham.
The training process included weekly Zoom information sessions with a Spanish instructor. It also included a series of online modules for each participant to complete.
With Blue Cross NC’s investment, the American Heart Association was able to expand its educational resources. In addition to the original cardiovascular health training, they offered teachings in other subject areas such as:
- COVID-19 Education & Resources
- General Stroke Information
- Blood Pressure Guidance
- Nutrition and Fitness Training
- Hands-Only CPR
- Alcohol/Drug Use
- Diabetes Support
- Education about the Social Determinants of Health
- Setting SMART goals
The training modules included both pre- and post-test assessments to encourage a complete understanding of the material. Each participant was also given blood pressure cuffs, hands-only CPR kits, COVID-19 PPE and training binders.
After graduating from the training, Promotores de Salud community ambassadors set off to serve their local communities.
Many ambassadors joined the program to bring this valuable information back to their families.
Soon after the conclusion of the training, more than 50 new Latino families enrolled in the program’s virtual nutrition and exercise classes. Families were also able to participate in virtual cooking lessons with a local chef and virtual workouts with a physical trainer.
Ambassadors then helped support two of the largest food pantries in Charlotte. Together, they helped to feed more than 12,000 families. They provided over six tons of fresh fruits and vegetables, donated $6,000 to help food pantries meet demand and worked with local farmers to purchase and deliver $6,000 worth of produce.
The impact of the Promotores de Salud program on North Carolina is far from over. The association plans to hold regular virtual meetings with the ambassadors for continued training. They’ll discuss best practices in the time of COVID-19, review program results and keep the momentum going.
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