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New Initiative Matches Health Care with Those Who Need It

June 13, 2011

LOS ANGELES - With the goal of helping under-served communities better understand the health care system, a new federal initiative by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) may look to a program that has been successful in California since 2007. The L.A. Care Health Plan has trained nearly 70 "Promotores de Salud" (Health Promoters), who work in their own Spanish-speaking communities to let people know how to use the medical and social services available to them.

LuAnna Loza, a program specialist with L.A. Care Health Plan, says they've discovered their members are more willing to accept this information from a peer.

"Members will go and see a doctor and have, maybe, 10 to 15 minutes with that provider, but what happens next? The Health Promoters, or "Promotores de Salud," can help to bridge that gap to accessing care and taking preventive steps."

The federal initiative aims to strengthen community-based outreach efforts across the country by helping people enroll in public programs and use new services that the Affordable Care Act provides, including the health insurance exchanges scheduled for the future.

Loza says her organization started the program after realizing members were not making the most of the health care services available to them.

"They had the Medi-Cal card and they didn't know how to use it; they didn't know how to contact their doctor; they didn't know what social services they were eligible for. They would have the services, but they wouldn't use them."

Loza says the health promoters also cover preventive care health topics, such as eliminating asthma triggers in the home, diabetes care and prevention, and the importance of a healthy diet. The program trains not only Latino health promoters, but also African-American and Asian health promoters.

More information is available at http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/promotores and www.lacare.org.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA