The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) recognizes the vital work of its partner organizations, such as the East LA Women’s Center (ELAWC), which supports Latina women, mothers and girls in underserved and vulnerable communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
With a focus on Latino communities, the ELAWC strives to provide safety, health and personal well-being for women, girls and their families, free from violence and abuse, as well as equal access to health services and social support. The ELAWC also offers innovative, comprehensive and culturally responsive services such as trauma-informed, evidence-based practices that help communities heal, protect, support and empower themselves.
COMMUNITY HEALTH WORKERS
With the help of the Public Health’s Community Health Worker Outreach Initiative (CHWOI), which launched in October 2020, community health workers serve on the frontline and offer a deep understanding of their culture, language and their community needs. With the help of community voices, the initiative extends accurate and up-to-date information to Angelenos on health resources.
“The work of Community Health Workers and System Navigators has been essential for Public Health’s quick responses to COVID, rapid access to resources and flexibility to reach as many people as possible with information, essentials and vaccines,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “We are proud to partner with organizations like East LA Women’s Center.”
Free resources that are given out to the community by health workers.
Genoveva Lopez, the Director of the Promotoras Institution at the ELAWC, has been with the organization for 14 years and oversees seven collectives of Promotoras. CHW’s staff members of each collective are trained, educated and empowered to combat violence against women and girls. “Our most recent work has been around COVID-19 and the vaccines,” Lopez said.
She also said that COVID-19 had a huge impact on a lot of the women and children that they serve at the ELWC. The agency started to see an increase in domestic violence because of the women who used to visit the agency for support and services were unable to do so due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“A lot of the women were retained at home. We saw that domestic violence increased, verbal abuse and emotional abuse as well, all because they couldn’t leave their homes. So a lot of the women that we served were impacted in many different ways,” Lopez said. Many of them couldn’t work because they are undocumented, so they didn’t have any coverage.”
“Many other women lost their jobs or couldn’t go to work because they had COVID-19 themselves. Another reason is their children being impacted by COVID, so they also couldn’t go to work,” she said. Many of the women and children from the center had other barriers during the pandemic, such as financial stability, immigration status, and being homeless, or evicted from their homes. While the pandemic slowly improved and there were fewer restrictions, the ELWC continues to work with them in any way they can help.
Through the county’S COVID-19 Community Equity Fund, Public Health employees work with and train system navigators in under-resourced and vulnerable communities, who can then help individuals and families access vital resources. System navigators are experts in finding, researching and accessing resources for the people most in need. Equipping local organizations with system navigators is a community-centered intervention that can help reduce inequities.
WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION
On May 4, the World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He determined that COVID-19 is now an established and ongoing health issue, which no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).
In a press conference, he said, “COVID-19 has been so much more than a health crisis, disrupting economies, travel, shattering businesses and plunging millions into poverty.” He went on to state that for more than a year the pandemic has been on a downward trend, and “this trend has allowed most countries to return to life as we knew it before COVID-19.” Then he made the pronouncement: “Therefore, with great hope, I declare COVID-19 over as a global health emergency.”
Maria de Lourde, mother of five, has been working at the ELAWC for five years now. She first started as a volunteer, and one thing led her to another. “I have a huge passion for gathering information for my community,” de Lourde said.
De Lourde, who is also a community health worker at the ELAWC, feels a sense of relief now that COVID-19 has been announced as no longer a global health emergency. “The community expresses their relief, knowing that the state is no longer in that stage of COVID. But they still have concerns about other diseases in our community,” she said.
Community health workers sharing health information on vaccines.
De Lourde also said that during the COVID-19 pandemic they were out in the communities serving the people with information that they might need. She was offered to lead one of the collectives in her community and currently leads the one located in Boyle Heights. “Thanks to the pandemic, people are more open-minded,” she said. De Lourde also believes people are now more aware that they need to take care of themselves and their health.
Lopez said that Community Health Workers are the bridge between the community and their agency. Health workers get trained and educated, and go back to their community and work with the community that they are familiar with and the community that trusts them. “They are able to provide information about violence, sexual assault, COVID and vaccines. They also share information on food and housing and link them back to our agency.”
RESOURCES AND SUPPORT
At the ELAWC, people can be seen by a therapist or a case manager so that they can access their needs individually. The ELWC is an organization that started as a rape crisis hotline. Lopez said that their lead Promotoras are advocates of sexual assault and violence, so they are able to provide crisis interventions.
Beyond that, the agency provides counseling, support groups, mental health services and life skills to prepare them in case they need to find a job or be prepared with a resume. They also provide the community with health information on HIV and AIDS. The center also has a shelter to offer to people who might need a place to stay, and other linkages to other resources that any individual might need. For more information, visit the East LA Women’s Center website.
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