by Paula Torrado and USC Environmental Health Centers
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disproportionately impact communities of color, and due to the multiple environmental burdens, divestment and low-wages, the impacts of the pandemic are felt more acutely. In response to this, The University of Southern California Environmental Health Centers partnered with Physicians for Social Responsibility-LA (PSR-LA) to build the capacity of community health promoters (promotores) from Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, Strategic Concepts in Organizing & Policy Education (SCOPE), and the Instituto de la Educación Popular del Sur de California (IDEPSCA) by developing a popular-education and community-centered approach to health literacy around COVID-19.
Through our work with USC Environmental Health Centers, we have learned from community members that we need a better understanding on how to protect communities from COVID-19, how to safely use cleaning products, and prevent exposure to toxic chemicals, and how to cope with mental health issues through the pandemic. With funding from the Keck Foundation, USC and PSR-LA developed and implemented a series of 3 bilingual workshops: Green Cleaning during COVID-19, Well-being During the Pandemic; and A Path to Just Recovery including Safe Housing.
Through these educational and resourceful webinars, we trained over 60 community members and community health promotores who now have the tools to understand and assess the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19, know the best cleaning practices that are safe for their health, and have coping mechanisms for healthy mental health. Among those trained were domestic workers and Mujeres en Accion from IDEPSCA who are frontline workers, and have been at the forefront of COVID-19 exposure as well as highly toxic cleaning product chemicals.
“I love doing good for the community, that is why I want to be a community health promotora. I also learned a lot about COVID-19, during this pandemic we all have to be prepared. It is something very useful that we have learned and the more we join to know and expand our knowledge I believe that we will do good for the community” – Lupita Rivas Community Health Promotora (SCOPE)
“I learned that so many people are going through mental depression because of the pandemic. They are feeling lonely and don’t know how to cope…. I learned that the community, our community, really wants to be involved in learning how to protect themselves from this COVID. So by having these workshops, it is really good for our community and the people surrounding our homes.”- Veronica Wilkens, Community Health Promoter (SCOPE)
Future collaborations will include information about COVID-19 vaccines, and additional mental health and well-being resources. Our plan for 2021 is to continue assessing COVID-19 risk perception and understanding vaccine acceptance and barriers among a diverse cohort of South LA community residents. We will examine attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccines among health care professionals and community health promoters (promotores) working in South Los Angeles. Through a community-engaged process, we will develop a workshop series around understanding the COVID-19 vaccine, address the vaccine myths, and rebuild the trust among communities of color in public health and medicine that has been long damaged due to systemic racism.
In working with the Community Health Promotores our goal is to build the community’s ability and literacy to strengthen public health and improve the community’s physical, behavioral and social health to withstand and recover from health adversities.