July 22, 2019 | Erin Bluvas, firstname.lastname@example.org
PASOs added two more accolades to its ever growing list of honors when it received national designations from the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs. PASOs Health Connections was named a Best Practice for its effectiveness in improving public health outcomes by addressing social determinants of health for Latino communities across the state. PASOs Connections for Child Development was also recognized, receiving the Promising Practice designation for its current success based on established public health protocols, values, etc. and its potential for making an impact in the future of young Latino children and their preparation for kindergarten.
“These designations provide further visibility for our work, our programs and organization, allowing our impact to be recognized on a national scale,” says interim co-director Maria Martin. “We are innovative leaders in this workforce and the success of our models is a testament to how we reach and serve families and how we value the quality of our work with them. We hope this allows us to grow stronger, inspire and continue to educate, connect and advocate for Latino communities.”
A South Carolina-based community organization housed in the Arnold School of Public Health, PASOs, which means steps in Spanish, works with Latino families and health and social service providers together for healthier, stronger families. They specialize in promoting health, education, advocacy and leadership development as well as connecting Latino families with critical education and resources in areas such as maternal and child health and early childhood development.
Julie Smithwick, who now leads the Arnold School of Public Health Community Health Worker Institute, founded PASOs in 2005. Over the past 14 years, this grassroots organization has grown to include 25 employees, 50 volunteer community health workers, 250 organizational partners, and a $1 million budget. They serve more than 8,000 individuals across 25 counties through community programs. Since Smithwick transitioned to the Community Health Worker Institute in March, PASOs has been led by interim co-directors Mike Young and Martin.
Through PASOs Health Connections, community health workers work closely with Latino households to connect them with health, early childhood and other needed services. The community health workers help individuals address social or environmental factors, such as connection to primary care and nutritional and social supports. This program also partners with local agencies and coalitions to improve access to culturally appropriate resources.
“This practice intentionally engages a population that has limitless potential, but could use extra support given the contexts that they are living in,” one of the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs reviewers commented. “This practice not only engages the individual to truly address social determinants of health such as food/housing, education, transportation, etc., but works with the systems with which participants interact to make them more conducive to providing the services this population desires.”
The PASOs Connections for Child Development program is also driven by community health workers, who screen children’s development at the family home or other sites such as clinics and libraries. They refer children who exhibit development needs to appropriate early intervention specialists as needed. Through this program, community health workers also provide information and tools about how to help children reach their developmental milestones, as well as early literacy and community resources so that young Latino children are well prepared for kindergarten.
“Community health workers are uniquely positioned to provide the personalized care and touch needed to overcome a multitude of barriers that emerge when your community is overlooked, a true to form approach to achieve equity,” says Young. “Our CHWs are leaders from local Latino communities that we as an organization prepare and nurture to be able to provide quality care and connections within the neighborhoods and communities they come from; our work would be impossible without them.”