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Pilot Project Leaders: Margarita Franco of PASOs

This month we’re featuring Margarita Franco, Director of Community Leadership Development at PASOs a community-based organization hosted at the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina.

How long have you been in your current position?  What brought you to the organization and your current work?

I hold a degree in psychology from Colombia, South America and a certificate in Women and Gender studies, and I am currently working on my Master’s degree in Social Work. I have been working with PASOs and the Latino community in South Carolina for the past five years. I help at-risk Latino families, especially women, access the information and resources they need to be healthy. I am passionate about women’s health issues, and I love being a channel that empowers women to realize their potential and make positive decisions that improve their lives.

What are you most excited about or what is your favorite aspect of the Choose Today a Healthy Tomorrow project?

I am excited about the opportunity to work with the Latino community around reproductive health issues because there are some unique needs among this newly settled population in South Carolina. PASOs always tries to work in ways that are culturally appropriate, tailoring messages and approaches to the specific needs and realities of the community. One of our culturally competent approaches is creating teams of community health workers who can bring health information and resources to their peers and neighbors. In the Choose Today a Healthy Tomorrow project, the community health workers will reach their community through a local radio show. I look forward to watching the community health workers learn the new skills needed to educate others about preconception health and be a part of a radio broadcast.

What do you anticipate will be the biggest challenge with this project?

I anticipate that the learning process will be somewhat challenging because most of our community health workers have little or not experience working in the world of radio. Also, we are not sure if members of the community who are invited to call into the radio will want to do so at the beginning.

Can you share any great books, articles, websites, etc, that would help people learn more about using media to reach vulnerable populations (or any great resource you’ve found that helps with your work)?

The preconception health campaign called “Amor y Salud” (Love and Health) features a radio-soap opera, or radionovela, to reach Latina women in Oregon over the radio. It is featured in both English and Spanish.  There are two radio programs that broadcast out of Mexico that have been helpful guides for our work, “Red Nosotras en el Mundo” (Our network in the world) and CIDHAL. Both are dedicated to progressing the rights of women.

In January, PASOs will publish an article entitled, “Developing a Culturally Appropriate Preconception Health Promotion Strategy for Newly Immigrated Latinos Through a Community-Based Program in South Carolina,” in the American Journal of Health Promotion. It details how PASOs is incorporating best practices to create a new strategy to reach this population with messages on preconception health.

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