Community health workers lead COVID-19 response for Bronx women without insurance

Violeta Rodriguez, a promotora on the front lines of COVID-19
Courtesy of Grameen America

An organization, which helps its members get business loans, is also helping Bronx women get access to health care.

According to data, more than 1 in 8 women in the United States live in poverty and among minority women, the rates are even higher. Also, women receive only 4 percent of all small business loans from mainstream financial institutions.

One organization that helps women is Grameen America, which provides microloans, starting at no more than $2,000, financial training and support to members. Members open free savings accounts with commercial banks and make weekly deposits.

Among the programs at the nonprofit is Grameen Promotoras, a joint initiative between Grameen America and Grameen PrimaCare, supported by the Medtronic Foundation. The promotoras, Spanish for community health workers, provide women with basic health screenings, referrals for health services at existing local resources, assistance in scheduling necessary medical appointments and support in navigating the city’s health system and attaining social services.

Violeta Rodriguez, a promotora on the front lines, spoke with the Bronx Times about how they’re working to bridge unjust gaps in health care access.

“Most members don’t have insurance,” she explained. “I let them know there is a service out there for them.”

Rodriguez, 29, of Westchester Square, joined Grameen in March. As a Bronx resident she knows how hard it is for undocumented women to not only survive, but also get proper health care.

While many of the husbands are working, the women are often home taking care of the kids or selling things like flowers, food or clothing in the streets. None of these women can get benefits or loans from a bank.

Rodriguez stressed  that it’s really about giving these hardworking women a voice.

“I wish years ago that there was someone to help my mother [madrina],” she commented.  “Every time I see one of these ladies I see my mom.”

Now with COVID-19 upon us, promotoras are even more crucial, she explained. Many women need medical care and don’t know where to go without insurance. So, the past five months Rodriquez and her colleagues have made sure these women have gotten the help they needed.

“We as promotoras are able to be the mental support right now,” she stated. “We have to listen to them.”

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