Amparo Soria stopped going to the doctor when she lived in Illinois, after a visit to a local health center shocked her with a bill for more than $1,000.
“When I got sick again, I did not go back because I could not afford it,” she said.
After moving to Newark, Del., with her husband and their two youngest of six children, she got a job with a cleaning service that does work for Christiana Care. Far from friends and family members in Mexico, she worried about keeping the family healthy.
Her 17-year-old son hurt his head in an accident. Her 12-year-old daughter has scoliosis, a curvature of the spine.
“It was hard to know what to do or where to begin, because I don’t have insurance,” she said.
Fortunately, Soria’s boss, Guadalupe Castaneda, is an active promotora trained by Christiana Care’s Community Health Outreach and Education staff. Promotoras are Latinas who promote wellness and screenings for cancer throughout the Hispanic community. Castaneda referred Soria to Healthy Families, a free program administered by Christiana Care and the Latin American Community Center for families in New Castle County who want to lead healthier lives. The program helps families who need screenings and preventative care, or who suffer from chronic diseases, including children with asthma. Funded by the Arsht Cannon Fund, the program provides an avenue to care for people without health insurance.
“The first step was providing Soria with information so that she could choose a primary care provider who speaks Spanish at a location that is convenient to her home,” said Luisa Ortiz-Aponte, the Healthy Families program manager at Christiana Care. When Soria’s son hurt his head, Ortiz-Aponte helped her to make the connections necessary to obtain a CT scan to make certain his injury did not require further treatment.
Soria’s daughter is getting the care she needs, too. In February, she will undergo surgery at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children. Ortiz-Aponte also is working on a referral for Soria’s husband, who has back problems.
“There are many places where people can get care and screenings, but they might not know where to go or how to get started,” Ortiz-Aponte said. “We are here to help.”
Dr. Marielena Velez de Brown, who coordinates Healthy Families at the Latin American Community Center in Wilmington, said the program helps people to overcome obstacles to care.
“We often see people who work several part-time jobs,” she said. “The key might be finding a doctor with extended office hours.”
At 50, Soria is past the recommended age of 40 for a first mammogram. She received a free screening at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute.
On a recent morning, she came for follow-up tests ordered by her doctor after the mammogram revealed a mass. Soria was accompanied by her older daughters, Rosa Isela and Maria Isabel, who were visiting from Mexico. A certified medical interpreter was waiting to help.
“I am very grateful to Healthy Families and to Luisa, who held my hand and showed me where I needed to go,” she said.
The program and the promotoras are connecting families with services for many health care needs, including diabetes, asthma, cancer screenings, HIV testing and dental care.
“It takes grassroots people to expand our ability to find families who need help,” said Nora Katurakes, manager, Community Outreach and Education at the Graham Cancer Center. “Together, we can build healthy families, one family at a time.”
To learn more about becoming a promotora, call 302- 623-4747.