The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, in partnership with Community Health Councils and Team Friday, released a new video series called “COVID-19 Diaries – A Day in the Life of a Community Health Worker.” 

The nine-part video series highlights the personal stories of community health workers in LA County who have serviced nearly 6 million residents since the pandemic began. In the series, the community health workers share their personal experiences of being front-line workers in a worldwide pandemic.

Community health workers are frontline public health workers with a deep understanding of their culture, language and their community needs. They share information about the resources their clinics offer like COVID-19 vaccines.

The Community Health Worker Outreach Initiative (CHWOI) began in October 2020. The effort aims to reach out to those most affected by COVID-19 throughout the county. With the help of community voices, the initiative extends accurate and up-to-date information about COVID-19 and ensures equitable distribution of vaccines and resources across the county using a peer-to-peer approach.

Since October 2020, Community health workers (CHW) have reached more than 5.9 million individuals. CHWOI had 17 subcontracted agencies with more than 900 community health workers placed in or servicing communities most highly impacted by the pandemic. 

Community health workers are trusted messengers in their communities. They often work in nearby neighborhoods, share the same ethnicity and language, and are passionate about sharing information and resources with their neighbors. 

Tania Barrios, from Clinica Romero, is a community health worker who has been working with the clinic since the pandemic. “My experience as a health worker has been incredible for the reason that I have had the opportunity to educate the community about the information and resources that are available to them, “ Barrios said. “This experience has been very eye-opening with all the information I have been learning as a health worker but I’m also eager to keep educating the community.” 

Although she was helping the community during the day, Barrios was also afraid to get infected with the virus. She would follow strict protocols when it came to her family’s health and safety. Barrios was very careful when she would get home. “I would disinfect the car and before entering the house I would spray all my clothes with Lysol. I have a family member with dialysis who lives with me. I would do all that because I didn’t want to infect my family,” Barrios said.

These health worker advocates come from different community-based organizations and peer groups, including promoters, indigenous groups, health outreach workers, workers’ rights advocates, parents, gang interventionists, and peace ambassadors.

For Susana Moncada, who serves Metro LA and East LA with Clínica Romero, helping the community is a personal mission for her. Like so many other CHWs, she spends her time bringing information and providing resources to her community. “When we help others, we are helping ourselves,” Moncada said. For her, the best part of the job is being able to provide support to her community “because every day is a different story for each family,”  she added. People in the community who don’t have access to mainstream media are reached by community health workers on a daily basis. They engage with communities that need the most resources and bring back insight and information to the Public Health Department.

“Public Health is grateful to all the health educators and promotoras for sharing their stories and serving as trusted sources of information about COVID and the vaccines,” said Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health. “The CHW Outreach Initiative is a vital link to building healthy communities as it allows us to fund people and organizations in under-resourced communities to do essential work in their neighborhoods, and we can hear directly from the CHWs about what is working and what is needed. Given the continued risk in under-resourced communities, these partnerships allow residents to access resources essential for good health and well-being, and get the information to those that need it the most.”

Just recently, the California governor’s budget for 2022-23 included $350 million to recruit, train and certify 25,000 new community health workers by 2025. 

By providing linkages to health and social service providers, CHWs are the equitable bridge between public health and the most under-resourced communities.

Maria Mejia works for Soledad Enrichment Action, which is another subcontracted agency. For Mejia, serving her community is very crucial. She believes that educating people in person opens doors to more opportunities and resources for people in need. “It’s essential for me because I feel like through us health workers we are reaching the Latino community and the whole Los Angeles community,” Mejia said.The nine-part video series titled “COVID-19 Diaries – A Day in the Life of A Community Health Worker” is available now on the LA County Department of Public Health YouTube channel.

Amairani Hernandez

Amairani Hernandez is a native of Los Angeles and a graduate of the California State University of Los Angeles with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. She is a freelancer and focuses on stories about Latinos,...