For National Health Center Week, Points of Light in partnership with the National Association of Community Health Centers honors health center volunteers, vital team players who help reach out to and serve their uninsured neighbors.
While serving as an AmeriCorps Community HealthCorps Member with AltaMed Health Services, one of the nation’s largest Federally Qualified Health Centers that prides itself on its patient-centered medical home (PCMH) model, Elia Salazar was able to experience the synergy between a health corporation, clinical interventions and programs, and community partners.
In order to do something about these pressing issues, Elia, during her first year of serving with the Health Education Department, established health education services at the West Covina clinic. By participating in this development, it further allowed Elia to closely interact with doctors, nurses, public health professionals, promoters being community health workers, Electronic Health Records systems, health insurance plans, and policy advocates.
During her second year of service, she served as Program Coordinator for the pilot childhood obesity prevention program in the East Los Angeles community under the mentorship of the Chief Medical Officer and the Boyle Heights Clinic Administrator. Elia was the liaison between the clinical interventions and community programs addressing childhood obesity and our patients. Elia also hosted a “Teen Summit,” which was an all-day conference for teens and their parents at a local park in the East Los Angeles community where about 100+ family members participated. The goal was to educate teens and their families on obesity and ways in which prevention can be made.
Elia learned that although the prevention and self-management of chronic illnesses can be accomplished through health education, there is still much more needed at the local and state levels to help alleviate the stress and injustices these communities experience on a daily basis. Patients were able to confide in her and she was able to connect with them on a personal level, as she also experienced firsthand the frustrations this community feels when advised to make healthy lifestyle changes, but are hindered by the lack of local supermarkets that carry fresh produce and safe parks in their neighborhoods.
Elia’s experiences and observations further reinforced that her experiences as a child with limited access to health services transcend into the larger scope and the need to allocate more accessible resources in all of the low-income communities. Her career objectives include obtaining a Masters of Public Health to ensure that through the skills and theories of program implementation, policies will be created to positively affect communities where health disparities are most prevalent.