A Community Health Liaison: Bringing Local Organizations Together to Make a Difference
In 2009, Sanofi US launched the Community Health Partnership initiative in an attempt to highlight and address health disparities in communities of color across the U.S. Trish Mendoza, the Community Health Liaison for San Antonio, helps build connections between different organizations in the community to better serve those people living with diabetes. To date, she’s definitely made progress, which is why I’m thrilled to share the details with you from my chat with Trish.
Q: Can you start by telling us a little bit about your background with Sanofi US as a Community Health Liaison?
A: I was hired in October of 2009 to be the spokesperson and executor of the Community Health Partnership (CHP) initiative in San Antonio. My focus is to highlight and address health issues in my community and present them to healthcare providers, patient groups and community-based organizations to shape solutions that help improve patient outcomes. I seek to link organizations doing similar work to one another to help improve coordination in their efforts to help people with diabetes.
Q: The Community Health Partnership launched in several cities across the United States. Why was San Antonio chosen as one of the first cities?
A: Type 2 diabetes is very prevalent in San Antonio. The population is about 75 percent Latino, has a high rate of obesity and sees a very high rate of diabetes. While people in San Antonio are being diagnosed at younger and younger ages, they are beginning therapies very late in comparison to the rest of the country. In general, the community faces unique barriers because of the diversity of the patient base and population.
Q: Can you tell us more about how you are connecting others in your community?
A: San Antonio has a very strong network of what I call “diabetes helping agencies.” These agencies range from large hospital systems to tiny grassroots organizations that utilize health education volunteers. The CHP pilot enabled us to connect grassroots organizations to large traditional healthcare organizations that previously had no knowledge of one another. Since the CHP, we’ve shifted from creating awareness about a problem to creating an opportunity for dialogue and mentoring between organizations.
For example, I do a lot of work with an organization in San Antonio called the Mexican American Unity Council. Last year they expressed interest in branching out into health education and promotion and decided to focus on diabetes. They wanted to create a program for seniors who live in their senior housing complexes to increase their knowledge about the risk of diabetes.
They reached out to me to find resources that they could use to develop their workforce and make them more knowledgeable about diabetes. I linked them to another organization called the Martinez Street Women’s Center, a grassroots organization, who had been working on diabetes education in San Antonio for years.
It’s a local need and a local response. Because of the new partnership, the Mexican American Unity Council has successfully launched a type 2 diabetes prevention program at their senior apartment complex in downtown San Antonio, and they’ve enrolled seniors with type 2 diabetes in a program to learn how to better manage their blood sugar. They did it with such tremendous success that they presented their project at the annual National Council of La Raza Conference in Washington, DC in July of 2011.
Q: Can you give us an example of some of the diabetes-related events you organize in San Antonio?
A: Sanofi US executes special events using their Dribble to Stop Diabetes campaign, Team Type 1 and Team Type 2 outreach programs and Healthy Lifestyle Mall Events. These are all hand-prepared activities that Sanofi US can bring into the community to create awareness about the importance of healthy lifestyles and diabetes in general. But what’s great about those resources and campaigns is that they really emphasize families. It’s not exclusive to patients. These events are opportunities for families to come out and enjoy activities together and it’s great to make learning about diabetes fun.
Diabetes is such an issue in our community that the word itself is almost stigmatized. Anything that we can do to help people feel more comfortable and open to learning about diabetes, means a greater chance we’re going to see behavioral changes.
I want to extend a huge thank you to Trish for sharing with us all the great work she’s done in the San Antonio community and for working so hard to make a difference by bringing organizations together.
For those in the San Antonio area, make sure to check out some of the great events coming up next weekend (Sept. 14-16). The San Antonio Silver Stars Dribble to Stop Diabetes Team Night, Healthy Lifestyles Mall Event and The Great Race are all taking place in San Antonio!
All the best,
Disclosure: While Trish Mendoza received no compensation for this post, she is currently a paid consultant with Sanofi US. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.