Promotoras and the Semantic Gap Between Latino Community Health Researchers and Latino Communities

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Promotoras are identified as a unique group of community health workers adept at reducing health disparities. This qualitative study was conducted to better understand perceptions of the term promotora, broadly used in research but not well documented in everyday Latina vocabulary. Six focus groups to better understand perceptions of the term promotora were conducted with 36 Latina women living in three nonmetropolitan areas in Illinois. Results suggest that Latina participants in the study do not understand the meaning of “promotora” in the same way as it is used in the literature. Latina participants understood “promotoras” as referring to people who sell or deliver information, or organize events in the community that are not necessarily related to health events or community health work. Furthermore, they usually understood the term to refer to paid work rather than volunteering. Results underscore the importance of being sensitive to Latinas’ perceptions of community health terminology by assessing their context, needs, and expectations. These findings call researchers’ attention to the need to educate certain Latino communities about the concept of promotoras, with implications for the implementation and dissemination of promotora-led community health programs, as the semantic discrepancy could affect the recruitment of promotoras as well as community participation in the programs they deliver.

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