Promoting Healthy Communities



Eleven Latino men and women from the Central Shenandoah Valley recently received certification as lay health promoters in their communities through Promotores de Salud, a program of the Blue Ridge Area Health Education Center and the Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services at James Madison University.

Participants completed 40 hours of training designed to provide family, friends, neighbors and co-workers with culturally appropriate health information and help bridge the gap between residents and providers. Topics included diabetes, sexual health, substance abuse, nutrition and physical activity as well as a collaborative project with the South River Science Team to educate the local Latino community about fish consumption in the Shenandoah Valley watershed.

For the first time, graduate students in JMU’s Physician Assistant Studies program were involved in the training. The students, under the direction of assistant professor of health sciences Dr. Erika Kancler, researched topics, developed presentations and hands-on exercises, and facilitated many of the sessions.

“The PA students learned a lot about the Hispanic/Latino community in Harrisonburg and also how to work with medical interpreters and lay health promoters,” said Jerry Weniger, director of the physician assistant studies program. “Hopefully the health promoters benefited from the medical education that the PA students provided as well.”

JMU students are also involved in event planning and marketing of the Promotores program, and students in Dr. Hyong Yeom’s Social Work Practice in Macro Systems class survey graduates to get a sense of how the program has benefited them elsewhere in their professional and personal lives.

“Our focus is on the community,” said program coordinator Deborah Foy, “but part of our mission is to give JMU students and the Promotores themselves, some of whom are interested in health careers, opportunities to help reach their goals.”

Published: Thursday, November 13, 2014

Last Updated: Friday, July 7, 2017

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