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City Heights Initiative Tackles Health Disparities While Providing Job Skills

A nonprofit’s free training program teaches participants how to prevent chronic diseases that ail communities of certain ethnic and racial backgrounds.

Depending on your racial and ethnic background, you may be at a higher risk for stroke, heart disease, cancer or other ailments. To address these disparities, a local nonprofit is hosting a free health information program focused on training residents in San Diego’s most diverse neighborhoods.

The Community Health Worker Leadership Academy, which begins Wednesday, provides participants with career training and educates community members on healthy habits so they’re in a position to give neighbors advice on their well-being.

Top Three Leading Causes of Death

American Indian or Alaska Native Population: Heart disease, Cancer, Accidents (unintentional injuries)

Asian or Pacific Islander Population: Cancer, Heart disease, Stroke

Black or African American non-Hispanic Population: Heart disease, Cancer, Stroke

Hispanic or Latino Population: Cancer, Heart disease, Accidents (unintentional injuries)

White non-Hispanic Population: Heart disease, Cancer, Chronic lower respiratory disease

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Marielena Aguilar, a community health educator with Project Concern International or PCI, said after past versions of the academy that focused on training Latinas, she noticed more people visiting local health clinics.

“We have been noticing that people are accessing more health care, and people that have been referred to the clinics are attending their medical visits quite often," Aguilar said. "They’re getting used to — to change their habits also — to have their regular check ups every year."


Community Health Worker Leadership Academy Schedule

Community Health Worker Leadership Academy Sche...

A schedule for Project Concern International's upcoming Community Health Worker Leadership Academy.

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Aguilar said because there are many barriers to care in City Heights, including a lack of transportation and limited English language abilities, the program connects communities with an informed health adviser who is likely bilingual. She said many people who complete the program go on to pursue careers in the health care field, including three former participants who were hired by PCI.

Anyone is welcome to sign up for the 10-week program, but Community Health Coordinator Nadine Umutoni said she and other organizers are focusing on members of the African-American, Filipino, Somali and Vietnamese communities.

The courses will be taught in English while previous versions of the program were in Spanish, Umutoni added.

Kaiser Permanente awarded the organization $25,000 for the program to cover the cost of up to 60 female participants in two San Diego County cities, spokeswoman Jennifer Dailard said in an email.

“These women are from the Somali community in City Heights and the Filipino community in National City and are expected to provide referrals for an estimated 400-600 people living in medically-underserved communities,” Dailard wrote.

Funding also came from The California Endowment, PCI’s Aguilar said.

The organization will offer free childcare for attendees. The program begins March 29, but participants may be able to sign up late by contacting Project Concern International.

Editor's note: The California Endowment also funds Speak City Heights.


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opening quote marksclosing quote marksThe health beat is about more than just illness, medicine and hospitals. I examine what impacts the wellness of humans and their communities.

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