Adapting the promotores model for benefits access
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Adapting the promotores model for benefits access

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August 16, 2011

The 2010 Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers (MIPPA) grant includes a special focus on prevention and wellness, in conjunction with increasing access to key benefits that help low-income Medicare beneficiaries receive health care. This focus has encouraged many MIPPA grantees to seek partnerships with community-based health promotion programs.

The promotores model is one that some MIPPA grantees are using to increase benefits access among Hispanic communities. Trusted bilingual support such as the one provided by the promotores is critical to connect eligible beneficiaries with the agencies that provide personalized enrollment assistance.

A brief history of promotores

The word “promotores” is the Spanish twist for “promoters” of key topics that will benefit the community’s well-being. The model is based on a Latin American program that facilitates peer education.  First used in the U.S. in the 1950-1960s with Navajo Community Health, the World Health Organization launched the model internationally in 1978 as a vehicle for the delivery of basic health care services. From this, community health workers evolved and promotores were specifically used for the Hispanic population. Today, more organizations are using the model to reach out to ethnic enclaves. 

Promotores are vital in their communities because:

  • They serve as links between vulnerable, low-income, and underserved populations and the health and human service organizations that serve them.
  • They convey information to their neighbors in a way that others cannot because of cultural or language barriers. Their methods of community contact vary from the informal to formal, from family dinners to organized community events.
  • While primarily used for health promotion and education, promotores can be a good fit for promoting benefits that help community members remain healthy and independent. 

Local examples

Here are a few examples of how MIPPA grantees are using promotores in their benefits outreach and enrollment activities:

  • The Bexar County, TX area agency on aging has long looked to promotores for benefits access engagement.  The agency is now developing and solidifying a more formal training program for promotores. The promotores visit local establishments and go door-to-door to spread the word and screen persons eligible for benefits. An interesting point from this interaction is that the AAA notes the older Hispanic population likes to communicate orally in Spanish but they want the benefits materials in English. 
  • In Wisconsin, the Los Abuelitos Hispanic Outreach Project is building partnerships for culturally competent outreach and assistance through promotores among Spanish speakers in Southeastern Wisconsin. The promotores distribute informational materials that have been translated into Spanish to those who might be eligible for benefits. The state intends to use lessons learned from its promotores outreach into the Spanish-speaking community to determine if the model is transferable to gain trust and acceptance in the African American and Hmong communities.

Learn more about current MIPPA activities.

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