SAN ANTONIO – The COVID-19 pandemic revealed a lot about our health care system, including the deep inequities in minority communities.
“There are a lot of marginalized people out there -- such as people of color, women -- who just don’t trust going to any of those clinics because they don’t know how they’re going to be treated,” said Ervinell Walters, who lives in San Antonio.
Walters is one of the many people who get their information from the places they trust: churches, community centers, food banks, or housing programs.
“There’s lack of transportation, so come to the church. You’ll see the tents. We’re giving shots,” Walters said, giving an example of how her church hosted COVID vaccine events.
The challenge is ensuring those types of organizations have accurate health information.
“This is a first attempt to bring those organizations into the field of health literacy and equipping them to be able to provide better resources and accessibility for their clients,” said Melanie Stone, who is part of a team creating that change.
Stone is the assistant director of Community Service Learning at UT Health San Antonio.
UT Health San Antonio, Metro Health, and UTSA started a nonprofit last year called Health Confianza, aimed at expanding health literacy in our community. It’s the first program of its kind in the nation.
One of the strategies is asking organizations to take the Health Literacy Pledge.
Ten organizations have just taken that pledge, including Alamo Community Group, which owns 10 affordable housing properties in San Antonio.
The first step after taking the pledge is to do an internal assessment and identify what they need to improve.
“That could be making sure their materials are written in plain language, making sure they have good signs for navigating through their organization, providing language interpreter services,” said Stone, who is director of Health Confianza’s Health Literacy Pledge Program.
For example, if a parent is giving medicine to a sick child, they need to be able to understand the directions.
Offering instructions is part of an 8-month training for these organizations.
It’s a lot of work that people like Walters don’t take lightly.
“I’m grateful to know that I’m not going to be overlooked,” she said.
Health Confianza has several other strategies, including providing health literacy education directly to community members. They do that through Community Health Clubs that offer discussion and activities around topics including mental health, COVID, nutrition and more.
Another strategy is offering ambassador training to individuals, groups and businesses, along with education and training for health professionals.
They also provide information, resources and access to pop-up vaccination clinics.