This summer FaithHealthNC held four workshops in Winston-Salem for Hispanic/Latino people who seek health care as well as for those who provide it. Undocumented Hispanic/Latino residents in the city have a median family income of $28,600. Because of transportation barriers and lack of insurance these persons face additional challenges getting healthcare.
Maria Teresa Jones s and Francis Rivers Meza facilitated the workshops. Francis s works as a Supervisor of Clinical Pastoral Education at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and is the Hispanic/Latino Liaison on the FaithHealthNC team. He a minister of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and since 2006 has served as executive director of the American Waldensian Society. He was interviewed by Tom Peterson.
Tell us about the community health assets mappings that took place this summer.
The Hispanic/Latino community is the fastest growing demographic in Forsyth County. And while we had a sense of who was providing health-related services, we knew little about the experience of those seeking the services. So one mapping event was solely for providers. We invited people from congregations, nonprofits, governments and small business that offer services to the community.
We then had three separate events for people who seek services. We chose three neighborhoods with a high percentage of Hispanic/Latino residents. Where we had connections with local congregations—St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church in East Winston and Iglesia Presbyteriana El Buen Pastor in Old Town—the events were most successful. A mapping with the “seekers” is a process of asking those seeking health services to tell us what they see as the safe places, the significant resources in their neighborhoods and what makes it hard for them to access services.
What did you hear?
We asked people to describe how they navigate their neighborhoods to get the things they need, especially related to healthcare. Of course, we heard about significant obstacles. Because many people are undocumented, they can’t get state-issued forms of ID. So driving is a problem. Fortunately, the police and sheriff’s offices rarely arrest and deport people for driving without a license. They could still incur heavy fines simply for driving to work or to the doctor.
So, for example, those in northeastern Winston-Salem who want to buy food from their country of origin often have to drive across town. This exposes them to the risk of being stopped and fined. Public transportation is not a viable option because services are erratic and inconvenient. The lack of state-issued IDs also makes it hard for many to fill their prescriptions.
People also expressed a desire for more culturally sensitive healthcare. They felt they weren’t treated well at some of the clinics. The two most glaring challenges were lack of access to dental care and access to routine screenings, such as mammograms. Language barriers exacerbate all of these problems. Many children, if they’re born in the United States, have access to Medicaid. But the parents don’t. So the parents often forgo healthcare until the situation is very serious.
How did the community respond to the mappings?
The mood, especially at El Buen Pastor, was electric and busy. Twenty women brought with them double that number of children. They were excited to tell us about their daily experiences and expressed gratitude that someone took the time to listen to them. When I went back on a follow-up visit, one woman expressed amazement that people weren’t just listening to their stories, but actually coming back and following up.
What bright spots did you notice?
It was clear how much these women cared about their children and how willing they were to do anything necessary to offer their children a better future. It was clear how much they loved their churches and saw them as safe places where they could get help and advice from their pastors or clergy.
One of the men at St. Benedict told us, with tears in his eyes, that he had been unable to qualify for medical care at a free clinic because he earned too much money. What the clinic didn’t take into count was that he was sending half of his salary back to Mexico. And what brought him to tears was that his father had died earlier in the year. Before his father had died, they had spoken and this man had said he could go home to be with his father, but his farther told him, “Stay where you are. There’s nothing for you here. The best thing you can do to help the family is to continue to work and send money.”
What happens next?
We produced a report that in August we shared with participants of all four mapping events. We hope that sharing the results set the stage for identifying next steps for action and cooperation. For us, this is the beginning of the process of community engagement. Some of the data we gather will also be helpful to the Building Integrated Communities project being carried out by the Human Relations Department of the City of Winston-Salem and the Latino Immigration Project of UNC-Chapel Hill.