In the 1980s, a new idea was gaining momentum in the Gorge. It came in response to a familiar challenge – how do we keep people healthy? Does it start and stop at the doctor’s office? How might other factors, like housing or even transportation affect someone’s health? And what role might local leaders play in supporting the health of their community? Maria Antonia “Toña” Sanchez was one of the first in the nation to work as a “Promotor(a) de Salud” – now known as a Community Health Worker. By the time Joel Pelayo applied for the job in 1992, the number had grown to 10 in the Gorge. Today, we have more than 100 trained Community Health Workers, many of whom are state certified, and who serve people from a variety of different backgrounds. Across the country, others are adopting Community Health Worker models much like the one developed in the Gorge. Join Toña and Joel as they share some of their experiences from 30 years as Community Health Workers and find out how they use culture, personal connections, and even music to help people thrive.
Maria Antonia “Toña” Sanchez was one of the first in the nation to work as a “Promotora de Salud” (now known as Community Health Worker), a role she began almost 30 years ago. She has served as the Women’s Health CHW for One Community Health’s (local FQHC) conducting outreach, education and assisting with screening access for Latinas. Toña is an experienced bi-cultural and bi-lingual trainer and has facilitated the CHW “We Are Health” series, one of Oregon Health Authority’s adopted CHW Curricula used to certify CHWs. She is known for her outstanding listening skills and is considered a “healer” among Latino community members. She is a highly respected member of the Latino community and is affectionately known as “Doña Toña”. She has a positive impact on the lives of those she supports and her input has helped form policy and improved outreach services for Latino immigrants at local, state and national level.
Joel Pelayo has worked to provide community health promotion and outreach to the Latino population for decades. He currently serves as Co-Chair for the Columbia Gorge Health Council’s Community Advisory Council (part of our local Coordinated Care Organization). Joel is a registered counselor in the state of Washington, providing treatment for domestic violence offenders. He currently serves as a Lead Community Health Worker (LCHW) for Nuestra Comunidad Sana/Health Promotion Services for The Next Door. As a LCHW, Joel has provided outreach to thousands of Latinos from the Mid-Columbia on diabetes, obesity, substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, oral health and many other health concerns. “Don Joel” instills a sense of empowerment, peace and compassion with his co-workers and community members.