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Arnold School of Public Health


PASOs celebrates 10 years of bridging Latino families and resources as S.C. Latino population continues to grow

June 10, 2015

The below story has been republished here from PASOs.

PASOs, a South Carolina-based community organization affiliated with the Arnold School of Public Health through shared workspace and close partnerships, celebrated ten years of helping Latino families and health and social service providers work together for healthier, stronger families on Saturday, June 6. Mayor Stephen Benjamin offered opening remarks at the Celebration and Compromiso (i.e., commitment) Event. Representatives from Palmetto Health and PASOs lead organizations and Latino community leaders in committing their support to a thriving Latino population throughout S.C.

The Latino population in S.C. grew 159% between 2000 and 2011, one of the fastest growth rates in the nation. Such rapid growth has often left safety net providers struggling to keep up with the needs of an immigrant population facing obstacles like language barriers. That's where PASOs comes in. Founded by Executive Director Julie Smithwick in 2005, PASOs (Perinatal Awareness for Successful Outcomes) started as prenatal education outreach in Columbia has evolved into a dynamic and thriving statewide organization that facilitates family well-being and early childhood success in partnership with Latino communities.

"PASOs makes sure that Latino families have the information and resources they need to make healthier choices, while also helping our health and social service systems build the infrastructure they need to support these families," says Smithwick. "Latino families want to raise happy, healthy kids and give back to their communities just like anyone else, so we make sure they have the tools they need to do that."

Through ten years of working with grassroots Latino leaders and other community partners, PASOs has served more than 8,000 individuals with services ranging from health education and parenting classes, to help finding a doctor or getting a GED. PASOs recently launched an Early Childhood Initiative to make sure that the next generation of South Carolinians is healthy and prepared to start kindergarten.

PASOs is proud to see all of the progress that has been made in South Carolina over the past ten years as Latino families become part of the rich culture of the state. "With PASOs' help, South Carolina has made huge progress in access to health care; rates of neural tube defects in Latino babies are way down, and we're making strides in helping families have what they need to get their children ready to start kindergarten and be successful. In another ten years, I hope to see our state leading the way in health and education outcomes among Latino families," says Smithwick.

Local media, including WLTX 19 and ColaDaily, covered the milestone.