San Francisco Promotores Referral Network wins APHA Community Health Workers Award

This year, The San Francisco Promotores Referral Network won the APHA Community Health Workers Award. This award is given at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting to recognize community health workers’ dedication to their work and the benefits they bring to their communities.

During the early days of the pandemic, it became clear that COVID-19 was disproportionately impacting the Latinx community in San Francisco. In response, promotores stepped up to provide culturally appropriate services using their connections within communities they intended to serve. The team learned multiple new data and communications platforms and were able to transition their work to remote public health activities.

Though some of the promotores did not have experience in public health, their hard work and willingness to respond to the needs of their communities motivated them to transition and be trained in other diseases like diabetes, leading to the creation of a referral network for this widespread chronic condition. By hiring and partnering with Spanish-speaking staff who had deep ties with their communities, the group was able to interview 935 individuals who needed 3,786 referrals and connect nearly 3,000 individuals to a vaccine. This work changed SFDPH’s approach to working with community, diversified the representation profile in the workforce at SFDPH, and opened doors for many bicultural, bilingual, and undocumented promotores.

The San Francisco Promotores Referral Network is a joint effort between Dolores Street Community Services, Mission Economic Development Agency, UCSF’s Latinx Center of Excellence, and SFDPH. The promotores were first brought together at the start of the pandemic to work under a grant, Comunidad Contra COVID-19, where they were assigned case investigation and contact tracing for COVID-19 and provided other public health services to the community.

This program began operating in partnership with the UCSF Pandemic Initiative for Equity and Action (UPIEA), which is part of the Institute of Global Health Sciences, but more recently it has been operated through the direction of Aureliano Davila-Valente, whose work focused on fortifying the relationships between SFDPH and the community-based organizations that employ the promotores. The program thrived under Aureliano’s leadership and was even able to take on MPX – the virus first called monkeypox – as the threat developed by co-establishing a hotline, providing health coaching, testing, and vaccine linkage, and community education.

In the future, the promotores plan to build on their incredible accomplishments to take on additional health disparities including alcohol use, cancer, and HIV prevention among Spanish-speaking men who have sex with men.

Congratulations to the San Francisco Promotores Referral Network! And their collaborators, San Francisco Department of Public Health, Dolores Street Community Services, Mission Economic Development Agency, and UCSF Latinx Center of Excellence.