“The COVID-19 pandemic uncovered the effects of multiple structural barriers and inequities to delivering health care in Latino communities. An important lesson has been that trusted community health workers have the language, knowledge and trust of their communities,” said Luis Carvajal-Carmona, associate vice chancellor for the UC Davis Office of Academic Diversity and chief diversity officer and associate director for the Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEAL) office at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. He is also the founding director of the cancer center’s Center for Advancing Cancer Health Equity (CACHE).

CACHE, established in the spring of 2022, aims to achieve cancer health equity for all regardless of race, ethnicity or socioeconomic background. Thanks to a $750,000 grant from Gilead Sciences, it is leading a new project to train bilingual and bicultural promotores from underserved and marginalized Latino communities through what it’s calling the “embajadoras project.” Promotores trained through the pilot program will become Spanish-speaking health outreach ambassadors in the 19 counties that the cancer center serves, enabling community members to better access cancer education, prevention and care.

The embajadoras project is a partnership between CACHE and the Health Education Council (HEC), a Sacramento non-profit organization founded in 1991 that works to improve health outcomes in underserved neighborhoods.

Laura Fejerman and (on the right) Luis Carvajal-Carmona

With the cancer center’s support, the project will develop its first accredited bilingual and bicultural promotores curriculum. The course will bridge an important educational gap and will encompass job skills training. HEC will further train promotores who have completed their accredited promotores training.

Working with CACHE, HEC will supply infrastructure, knowledge and logistical support for the embajadoras project, training promotores so they can develop support systems for Latinas living with breast cancer in their communities.

Existing HEC health outreach programs Ventanilla de Salud, Mente Sana, Vida Sana and Peers helping Peers will also be leveraged by the embajadoras project. Together, they’ll serve as an outreach hub to help Latinas navigate and overcome the challenges of living with breast cancer.