Wanted More Community Health Workers .pdf

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building a

HealtHy S a c r a m e n t o

Wanted: More Community
Health Workers
by N ata s h a vo N K a e N e l


he entire country is facing a shortage
of health care professionals, with the
Association of Schools of Public Health
reporting that roughly 250,000 more public
health workers are needed by 2020 to fill
the gap. With this shortage, it has become
more important than ever to encourage
young people to pursue careers in health.
This January, with help from The
California Endowment’s Building Healthy
Communities initiative, five high school
interns began working at La Familia
Counseling Center, Inc., gaining firsthand
experience of what it means to be a
community health professional, educator
and ambassador to their local communities.
Monica Soto, one of the interns from
Hiram Johnson High School, says the main
reason she applied for the internship was
to see different kinds of careers available
in health. “It’s not always going to be that
you are a doctor or a nurse,” she says. “In a
crazy way, even the Zumba teacher can be a
health worker.”
Community health careers can include
social work, interpreting, counseling,
nursing, working as a dental hygienist,
learning disabilities specialist, behavioral
or mental health clinician, care
coordinators, health navigators and much
more. But one of the biggest challenges
California faces is filling the gap of
diversity in the health industry. In 2012, a
review by the California Senate reported
the state’s current workforce of health

professionals do not reflect California’s
racial and ethnic composition or language
So during their time at La Familia, the
interns planned a health fair for over 400
people, made presentations to their local
community about different health topics,
including bullying, abuse, hypertension
and the importance of good nutrition
and exercise, as well as surveying local
populations about their health needs and
helping them register to vote.

“In a crazy way, even
the zumba teacher
can be a health
monica Soto, Intern at la Familia Counseling Center, Inc.,
senior at Hiram Johnson High School

Oreana Luna, an intern from Valley High
School, worked on a project about obesity
in the Hispanic community, and says, “That
project was part of being an ambassador
to my community and advocating for them
about the risk that obesity does have.”
This internship inspired Oreana “to really
do my best and help more people in my
community, because that’s the future
generation,” she says.

From left, Monica Soto from Hiram Johnson High School, and Oreana Luna and Anthony Lor from Valley High School gained exposure to
community health careers during an internship with La Familia Counseling Center, Inc. Other interns (not pictured) are Vanessa Jajar from
Luther Burbank High School and Isela Martinez from Arthur A. Benjamin Health Professions High School. Photo by Anne Stokes

change the lives of many people,” she says.
“We all think it is a beautiful thing that
we get to work with this community and
learn from people you wouldn’t normally
associate with.”
After college, both Orena and Monica plan
to pursue careers in public health.

Monica was also inspired by her internship
with La Familia. “Community workers can

your ZIP code shouldn’t predict how long you’ll live –
but it does. Staying healthy requires much more than
doctors and diets. Every day, our surroundings and
activities affect how long – and how well – we’ll live.
Health Happens in neighborhoods. Health Happens in Schools.
Health Happens with Prevention.

In 2010, The California Endowment
launched a 10-year, $1 billion plan to
improve the health of 14 challenged
communities across the state. Over the
10 years, residents, community-based
organizations and public institutions
will work together to address the
socioeconomic and environmental
challenges contributing to the poor
health of their communities.

Get involved

la Familia offers a wide of range of educational
workshops and programs for adults and children,
including karate and Zumba classes, parent support
groups, youth leadership groups, women support
groups, employment services and more.
Visit lafcc.org or find them on Facebook at

paid with a grant from the california endowment
2   |   SN&R   |   05.19.16

BuIldIng HEalTHy


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