From left to right: Community Engagement core group leadership at the Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute (SC CTSI) includes Michele Kipke, Ph.D.; Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati, Ph.D., MPH; Nicole Wolfe, Ph.D.; Adriana Argaiz, M.S. and promotores at the Chronic Disease Community Scientist Research Advocacy Training on Thursday, May 18, 2023 at USC Health Sciences Campus. (Photo by Andrea Diaz)

Over the course of two days in mid-May, 15 health promoters (also known as promotores de salud) from Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial, Santa Barbara, Orange, and Los Angeles counties participated in the Chronic Disease Community Scientist Research Advocacy Training, a collaborative capacity building effort between the Southern California Center for Latino Health (SCCLH), Keck School of Medicine of USC (KSOM), and the Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute (SC CTSI).

“The training is part of the Southern California Center for Latino Health, which is encouraging bi-directional collaboration between researchers and the community to help with disseminating information and education about health, while also learning from the community about best strategies for health promotion,” explained Michael Goran, Ph.D., Director of SCCLH and professor of pediatrics at Keck School of Medicine of USC. The health promoters’ diverse backgrounds and firsthand knowledge of local health issues provided a rich foundation for collaborative learning and problem-solving.

Over the course of two days, the health promoters engaged in a series of interactive workshops presented by renowned health and research experts: Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati, Ph.D., MPH, Associate Dean for Community Initiatives at KSOM and Associate Director for Community Outreach and Engagement at the Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Southern California (USC); Alma Garcia, Community Outreach Coordinator for Community Engagement at SC CTSI; Alaina Vidmar, M.D., Medical Director of the Healthy Weight Clinic at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA); Ivonne Flores, Ph.D., associate professor of the Department of Health Policy and Management at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health; Raul Bastarrachea, M.D., FTOS, Senior Research Scientist at Sansum Diabetes Research Institute; Claudia Rios, M.S., RD, Research Supervisor at CHLA; and Michael Goran, Ph.D.

The presentations covered a wide range of topics related to research and chronic diseases prevalent within the Latino community such as diabetes, obesity, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

The health promoters had an opportunity to deepen their understanding of the complex factors contributing to the health disparities faced by their communities by gaining insights into evidence-based practices, intervention strategies, and community-based participatory research methods.

“We invited this group of promotores de salud so they can learn more about research and play an active role in increasing participation in health-related studies,” said Adriana Argaiz, Associate Director of Community Engagement at the SCCLH. “They are all very passionate and dedicated about serving their communities, and I’m excited for them to take what they have learned in this training and put it into practice in their communities to improve health outcomes.”

On the second day of the training, Plaza de la Raza in Lincoln Heights became a hub of community engagement. SCCLH coordinated a health fair with the Nutrition and Physical Activity Program at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. The event aimed to provide community members with valuable resources pertaining to their health and well-being. The event also featured a special screening of the documentary film, "El Susto,” which sheds light on the diabetes epidemic prevalent in Mexico, primarily attributed to the high consumption of sugary drinks.

Following the screening, a panel discussion took place featuring Michael Goran and Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati, in addition to Ilan Shapiro, M.D., Chief Health Correspondent and Medical Affairs Officer at AltaMed, and Sheila Murphy, Ph.D., professor of communication at USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism. Community members were able to engage in a meaningful dialogue about the challenges and potential solutions to combat diabetes and other chronic diseases.

The Southern California Center for Latino Health hosted a panel discussion with experts. The panel included (from left to right) Michael Goran, Ph.D. (SCCLH Director), Ilan Shapiro, M.D. (Chief Correspondent and Medical Affairs Officer at AltaMed Health Services), and Sheila Murphy, Ph.D. (Professor of communication at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism). The panel was moderated by Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati, Ph.D., MPH (Associate Dean for Community Initiatives at KSOM). (Photo by Andrea Diaz)

“The goal of this program is to train promotores de salud to be the soldiers out there representing our work at the Southern California Center for Latino Health throughout California,” Baezconde-Garbanati said. “They will be engaged in research and a variety of other programs that are being developed to reach communities with information about chronic diseases and those factors that we can still intervene in to make a difference.”

The Chronic Disease Community Scientist Research Advocacy Training serves as a crucial steppingstone toward building a strong network of empowered community health promoters by equipping them with the necessary tools, knowledge, and connections required to drive sustainable change, effectively address the multifaceted challenges associated with chronic diseases, and create a lasting impact on the health and well-being of their communities.

“I think this is a key to success, to the magic,” said Alejandra Martinez, a health promoter from San Bernardino County who participated in the training. “I’m going to utilize what I have learned not only to establish working relationships with other promotoras and health experts who presented today, but more specifically, I’m going to help encourage my community to participate in research studies. I now feel more confident about my knowledge in research.”

Through shared experiences, informative presentations, and hands-on activities, the training was developed to empower the health promoters to become catalysts for positive change. By fostering community-driven healthcare initiatives and promoting culturally sensitive approaches, this initiative represents a significant advancement toward addressing the mission of the Southern California Center for Latino Health to end chronic health disparities in Latino children and families.

Click here to view all the photos from the two-day training on Community Engagement's Facebook page.

NIH Funding Acknowledgment: Important - All publications resulting from the utilization of SC CTSI resources are required to credit the SC CTSI grant by including the NIH funding acknowledgment and must comply with the NIH Public Access Policy.