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National community health worker meeting expected to draw 500 leaders, attendees from across U.S.

National, state and local leaders will address more than 500 promotores de salud/community health workers in San Antonio during the fifth National Community Health Workers/Promotores Conference Aug. 27-30. The meeting will be held at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.

The Health Education Training Centers Alliance of Texas (HETCAT), which is based at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, is cooperating in development and operation of the conference. HETCAT is a statewide collaboration of health professions institutions, health and social service provider organizations, and agencies concerned with health status, health professions, community development and binational coordination of activities.

The conference will be opened by Sam S. Shekar, M.D., M.P.H., assistant surgeon general and associate administrator for the Bureau of Primary Health Care, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., M.P.H., commissioner of health, Texas Department of Health; and Fernando A. Guerra, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.A.P., director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District.

During welcoming remarks, the three leaders will stress the upsurge of community health workers as members of the health care workforce and the significance of educated laypersons as health promoters and resource links between community and health and social services.

Gloria G. Rodriguez, founder and president/CEO of AVANCE Inc., will give the keynote address. AVANCE Inc. is a nationally recognized pioneering model program in culturally sensitive parent education and child development. Community-based education guided by community health workers is a key to the effectiveness of the AVANCE program.

The National Community Health Workers/Promotores Conference was initiated five years ago by the Western Arizona Area Health Education Center (WAHEC) to meet needs for promotoras/community health workers for continuing education, to foster association with other promotoras/community health workers, and to develop the concept in the health workforce. The meeting has been held in Arizona, New Mexico and California. This is the first in Texas.

The national gathering will attract community health workers and individuals from government, academic and provider organizations to San Antonio for skills workshops and presentations by promotores/community health workers on programs and accomplishments. An individual and a program will be recognized during the conference for their efforts on behalf of the community and for development of the community health worker workforce.

The three public health officials opening the conference bring experience and expertise in public health to the meeting.

As associate administrator for the Bureau of Primary Health Care in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration, Dr. Shekar is charged with filling health care gaps for people who live outside the nation's economic and medical mainstream. His agency's mission is expanding access to quality health care for all American through an array of grants to state and local governments, health care providers and health professions training programs.

Dr. Sanchez is a South Texas native and a longtime practicing physician and leader in health professions education and public health. He leads one of the state's largest agencies and oversees programs ranging from licensing and certification of professionals to disease prevention and control, epidemiology, environmental health and the state health department laboratory, one of the largest in the world.

Dr. Guerra is a practicing pediatrician, educator and advocate of public health. He leads the city health department meeting the health and public health needs of the metropolitan San Antonio area.

Contact: Teresa Hines, M.P.H., (210) 567-7800, or Will Sansom, (210) 567-2570