Identifying Human Resources in an Immigrant Community: The Role of Natural Helpers in the Implementation of a Community Based Intervention

Monday, 11 July 2016: 16:00
Location: Elise Richter Saal (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Elena BASTIDA-GONZALEZ, Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Florida International University, USA
Claudia SERNA, Oral Residency Program University of Florida, USA
Ramandeep KAUR, Florida International University, USA
Alberto RAVELO, Florida International University, USA
Carlos BARRETO BECK, The University of Texas at Austin, USA
The role that “natural helpers” play as links that bring neighborhood residents and researchers together in implementing an effective community intervention is explored.  Natural helpers are distinguished from “promotoras” (lay health workers) in that the former emerged naturally as group leaders in the research study; while the latter are selected and trained to support a study or a specific community wide effort. Data are drawn from an obesity and diabetes prevention intervention conducted with 1056 Mexican American participants at 16 different community sites.  Most (75%) were foreign born, migrating to the US at different points of their life course.   Qualitative data gathered through ethnographic observations and interviews are presented on the influence of 11 natural helpers who emerged as site leaders while participating in a community based intervention study, known as Beyond Sabor.  Findings from two data collection points are employed in the analysis. The first draws from ethnographic observations gathered at each site for twelve consecutive weeks. The second draws on open –ended interviews.  Seven women and four men shared their experiences on intervention results and changes in their and family lifestyles; they also discussed their twelve month effort at disseminating their learning experiences with neighborhood residents.  Ethnographic and interview narrative data were transcribed and analyzed. Important themes emerged resulting from a personal sense of moral obligation and community responsibility, their personal and social construction of health, network inclusion and their willingness to engage in capacity building efforts. Findings are compared against quantitative results for each of the natural helpers’ sites indicating their mediating “protective” effect against attrition and increasing program success. Recommendations are made on how to identify and encourage natural helpers’ contribution to community based research and the role that social capital plays when intervention staff bridge these disadvantaged communities with larger social organizations.