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At the end of Latin dance fitness classes, instructor Susana “Suzzy” Pinal says her students would gather to talk – often about their health or their family’s medical issues. She was always getting questions about new medications a doctor prescribed or a natural remedy viewed on the internet.

“I would tell them it is important to know what is the source that it’s coming from. Is it a trusted resource? Is it a doctor? What kind of license does the doctor have?” Pinal says. “I’m not a doctor, I just have my medical assistant certificate.”

But after 65 hours of training this winter to become a Promotora de Salud, or community health worker, Pinal feels more qualified to offer advice and teach her neighbors and fitness students what she knows.

In the U.S., Latinos have higher rates of medical conditions leading to heart disease and stroke, including diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death. But more alarming is the fact this ethnic group is 50% more likely to die from diabetes or liver disease than whites.

To address these disparities, Community Medical Centers helped secure a $75,000 grant through its leadership role in the Fresno Community Health Improvement Partnership’s Diabetes Collaborative to hire eight promotoras and a program coordinator. The Diabetes Collaborative along with Every Neighborhood Partnership, a non-profit serving low-income Fresno neighborhoods, is using the grant funding to educate recognized neighborhood community leaders on the promotora health promotion model.

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