Hoag’s New Promotora Program Connects Families to the Experts – and Care – They Need

Promotoras, Spanish for ambassadors, serve as human bridges to the underserved community

Meet Hoag’s promotoras. Thanks to a generous gift by longtime philanthropists Todd and Linda White, these four community health workers are now reaching out to serve as the critical human bridge between low-income families and the services that exist to help them.

They provide vital personal connections to the many health care programs, services and experts low-income families need — but so often aren’t even aware exist or are available to them.

The Hoag Community Benefit Promotora Program began in the spring with four promotoras, ambassadors to the professional health care and social services community. These workers help families navigate and access community services and adopt healthy behaviors.

And their importance cannot be overstated. While many programs exist to help low-income families access health care, mental health services, nutrition education, transportation, translation and legal services, the individuals and families who need them often don’t know about them.

Many promotoras programs exist throughout Southern California, but the connection to Hoag offers community members — and the promotoras themselves — access to an incredible network of high-quality services and compassionate expertise.

The promotoras work with clients to provide social support, nonclinical education, resource brokering, and advocacy for community health needs, with a particular focus on mental health. Operating out of the FaCT Costa Mesa Family Resource Center and Oak View Family Resource Center in Huntington Beach, the promotoras also facilitate support groups, meet clients at doctors’ offices and help educate the general public about the services available at the Melinda Hoag Smith Center for Healthy Living and other local services.

“A lot of people are in need of housing, food, the basics, and they’re not aware that we have resources in the community,” said Adriana Escobedo, a promotora who works out of the Costa Mesa Family Resource Center.

“The more we’re out there, the more I think we’re going to be successful. I have noticed a difference already. People are just starting to learn that we’re here.”

While education might be the primary objective, these promotoras have found that they provide much more than that.

“We offer emotional support, companionship,” said Rosalba Lezo, a promotora at the Family Resource Center who has accompanied clients to doctors’ appointments, parent-teacher conferences and other meetings where she has served as a translator, advocate and trusted peer advisor. “It’s really rewarding.”

Above all else, the promotoras say that level of compassion and companionship is exactly what many low-income people need to get them through difficult situations.

“Our participants know what they need, and they have gone through a lot of hard situations. I can’t teach them how to survive, they know how to do it,” Lezo said.

“We provide that extra support that will help them. Sometimes, when you’re in a hard situation and you don’t have anyone, that’s all you need.”