Research project expands palliative care in Latino community
By Melanie Marshall
UniHealth grant to CSU Institute for Palliative Care funds nursing professor’s project
A grant-funded research project to expand palliative care training in Long Beach’s Latino community has had significant success and is expected to multiply in the coming months.
The work, led by California State University Long Beach nursing professor Dr. Joy Goebel, RN, MN, PhD, FPCN, focuses on holistic palliative care training for promotores de salud – community health workers who educate families and caregivers on topics such as disease-management strategies, prevention, and access to health services.
The program was made possible by a $54,991 grant from the UniHealth Foundation through the CSU Institute for Palliative Care, supporting Goebel’s proposal aimed at reducing health disparities and improving quality of life for Latinos in greater Los Angeles County.
Program ‘trains the trainers’
Goebel said the first part of the research – carried out in the summer of 2017 – educated 60 promotores in three separate sessions using a “train the trainer” approach. A curriculum developed by Oregon-based Familias en Accion was used in the training
“It’s been a wonderful, wonderful experience,” Goebel said. “We got phenomenal feedback from the community.” She said the program is important because existing research shows Latinos are less likely to access hospice and palliative care.
Through Goebel’s project, two promotores from Familias came to Long Beach to conduct the training, where participants learned how to have effective conversations with health care providers; how to talk with family members about serious health issues; and what palliative care is and how to access it in the community.
“There’s a huge need in our community for culturally sensitive approaches to improving access to healthcare,” Goebel said. “We have a lot of strong evidence that approaches such as this are very effective at addressing health disparities.”
Response is quick, powerful
The CSULB Center for Latino Community Health, which partnered on the research project, recruited participants for the promotores training and filled all available slots within two days – with additional names on a waiting list, said Dr. Mara Bird, the center’s Executive Director, and co-lead on the project.
The program took off, Bird said. “We had people from the entire Los Angeles region – some from as far as two hours away – come to take this training.”
Each new trainee is responsible for training 10 more promotores, Goebel said, meaning at least 600 Latino families will receive palliative care education through the program.
The topic and training resonated deeply in the community, Bird said. “Every family deals with this issue,” she said. “Our population is aging, and patients and families need a holistic palliative care approach.”
Foundations provide critical funding
Goebel credited UniHealth with making the program possible.
“None of this very important work would be possible without the generosity of UniHealth,” she said. “By their choosing to be involved with the Institute, they are really touching a lot of lives and making a huge impact in the community of L.A. County.”
Goebel has also received additional funding that will be used to train more promotores. In September, she was awarded a $10,000 seed grant from the Gary and Mary West Foundation, through the CSU Institute for Palliative Care’s National Symposium for Academic Palliative Care Education and Research. That means another 15 promotores can be trained, she said.
“We’re so very grateful for the support from West Health, as well as from UniHealth,” Goebel said.
Project could spread across state
Goebel said she’s hoping to eventually replicate the project across the CSU so that other campuses throughout the state can have a promotores “train the trainer” program in palliative care. Twenty of the 23 CSU campuses are Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and each has a mission to serve their local community.
Dr. Adam Shapiro, Director of University Relations and Research at the Institute and leader of the National Symposium, said Goebel’s project is a great reflection of the important work being done throughout the CSU.
“Dr. Goebel’s project fits squarely with the mission of the California State University by embracing the culture and heritage of the communities around us, and seeks to expand the reach of palliative care to those for whom it is least often utilized,” Shapiro said.
The CSU Institute for Palliative Care also offers an online course – Care of Latinos with Serious Illness – that was developed by Familias en Accion. The course is designed to raise cultural competence among health professionals, helping them recognize how a patient’s culture affects the care he or she receives, and how to improve communication and cultural sensitivity to better serve patients in the Latino community.