Paso a Paso: Free health education supporting our Latino community

September 23, 2021 Providence Health Team



Key takeaways:

  • The Paso a Paso (Step by Step) program from Providence offers free health education to the Latino community.

  • Lead Community Health Worker Jessica Clothier shares details about the program and its benefit to Spanish-speaking families.

  • The program helps families navigate systems that are different than in their home country and eases their way when issues arise.

The Paso a Paso (Step by Step) program is one of an ever-growing list of programs Providence is bringing to the many communities we live and work in. The program offers free health education and assistance to the Latino community that’s served by St. Joseph and Redwood Memorial Hospitals. Paso a Paso’s expert, bilingual staff provides:

  • Childbirth education
  • Breast-feeding support
  • Parenting classes
  • Home visits
  • Resource referrals
  • Support groups

We sat down with Jessica Clothier, lead community health worker of Paso a Paso, for more details about the program that is rooted in the Providence mission of helping our vulnerable community members. What she describes paints a clear picture of their vision to help Latino families feel comfortable speaking with somebody in their language who truly understands their culture. These resources have been especially important during the pandemic that has added even more isolation for new parents who may be struggling to connect in their communities.

Q: Tell us a bit about your role in Paso a Paso.

Jessica Clothier (JC): I’ve been in my current role as community health worker (CHW) for almost six years. What I love about working for Providence is being able to provide services out in the community that help meet a critical need for families and support their long-term physical and mental health goals.   

Q: How did the program get its start?

JC: The Paso a Paso Program started off as a childbirth education and home visiting program for Spanish-speaking parents. That was over 15 years ago! Services in Spanish were very limited here in Humboldt County at that time. Little by little, more classes and support groups were built into the program to best support families’ safety, health, and wellness. Program staff also regularly serves as advocates for non-English speakers and culturally diverse families. We engage and partner with local organizations and agencies that are planning new programs.

Q: What are some of the program’s various offerings? 

JC: Currently, the Paso a Paso Program offers over 200 classes and support groups each year. We work mainly with expecting families, and families of young children; many of the families we work with are multi-generational. Our offerings include:

  • Classes including childbirth education such as newborn and postpartum care, lactation, infant massage, and car seat safety. We also offer one-on-one parenting classes and nutrition. Along those lines, we feature Seed to Supper classes, which show families how to successfully grow some of their own food on a limited budget.
  • Support groups for families to connect with for breastfeeding and postpartum support. There’s also the Baileterapia (dance therapy) group and a support group for families with kids who have special needs. 
  • Other offerings: We provide home visits or e-visits for families who need individual support, referrals, and help with navigating the healthcare system. Paso a Paso also hosts community events, family picnics, harvest days, and community walks that support health, safety, and connection.   

Q: You mentioned earlier how Paso a Paso began. Can you elaborate on why it’s important to have a program that’s geared toward the Latino community and providing language services?

JC: Parents feel comfortable talking to somebody in their language who understands their culture. We can help families navigate systems that are different than those offered in their home country and we can ease their way when a situation arises. We help families work with services they’re not familiar with. Those can be anything from healthcare and patient financials to schools and public programs. They all contribute to a family’s sense of well-being.   

One clear example of why it’s important that our program is inclusive of language and culture is the car seat class. Many Latin American countries don’t enforce the use of child safety restraints, or they’re viewed as a luxury not everyone can afford. For new parents who are not yet familiar with the California state laws or how to use car seats correctly, this car seat class means a lot. 

Parents tell us how they had no idea a car seat could be so important and so complicated. After the class, parents leave with the right car seat for their child (thanks to a partnership with the county) and one-on-one support for installing the car seat. This class provides the tools and information families need to keep their children safe and healthy.  

Q: What is the impact Paso a Paso has on the families that participate? 

JC: We start working with most families during pregnancy. We spend time planting seeds during classes for childbirth, lactation, and car seats and while on home visits. In a few short months, we can observe parents feeling more comfortable and confident in their parenting skills — from breastfeeding and bathing their infant to advocating for their child’s needs. Since the bulk of the work is in groups, parents are connecting to each other and giving us feedback about how positive it is for them to know people in their community, even if they just wave at each other at the store or ask how their family is doing. They feel less alone.

Q: Can you share a few stories about families you’ve worked with? 

JC: I’d like to share a translated summary from a postpartum support group. Most clients in this group have participated in program activities since early in their pregnancy or during a previous pregnancy. One mother said, “I just want to say thank you. I have no family nearby. It’s just my partner and I and now our baby, and this group has been my family. If I have a question and I don’t know where to go I can call anybody on the team. They have helped me find so many programs. And here in this group I’m learning a lot about my baby and how to care for him. I’m so glad we have these groups.”

We’ve received many comments about motherhood and how important the program is to each of the families. They highlighted receiving support in times of need, learning about new tools that have helped their parenting journey, and the importance of having a place to gather information about baby care and safety. Another parent added, “We are all new moms. Even if we have two or three kids. We are a new mom to this baby and a new mom in the pandemic. We learn from each other since we don’t have all the answers ourselves in these situations.” 

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share about Paso a Paso?

JC: I want to add that many parents have participated in virtual infant massage. In this five-class series, parents learn about healthy touch, asking permission, infant cues, and early communication. A class that seemed to be impossible to deliver online was the first class we offered when we went virtual in 2020. We continue to host that class every other month and over 40 families have participated so far.

One family said that “[Infant] massage is the perfect activity to do with our newborn in the pandemic. It has helped us both relax and spend quality time together. Now my baby knows he gets a massage after his bath; we have a routine going!” 

Most of the families we work with that were once hesitant to use too much technology have become comfortable and confident using Zoom. It wasn’t a part of the culture before, but as the world moved into the virtual atmosphere, families became more receptive. With some encouragement and a bit of troubleshooting, most families are now embracing the tool in ways that surprise us. Families that may not have participated much in person in the past are now more active than ever and hoping we keep offering virtual classes when the pandemic is behind us!

Many mothers are joining Zoom groups and classes earlier in their postpartum journey than before, especially since the cuarentena (forty days postpartum) time is closely followed in many Latino cultures as a time of resting, recovering, and staying home. They are sharing, asking, learning, and processing with the group.  

Another thing that comes to mind is the culturally sensitive information we offer to parents about safe sleep, co-sleeping, and other topics. For example, when we talk with parents about infants and co-sleeping, we take an approach that’s all about avoiding harm. We help parents think of how to lessen the risks and talk through the situations that could be problematic or dangerous in their home. Our goal is to make sure that parents who need a safe sleep setup can obtain one or we can provide them with one to ease their way. 

Paso a Paso: with families every step of the way

Paso a Paso is a program that’s built on kindness and respect. Spanish-speaking women and their families soon learn they have the support they need to discover and build their independence and recognize their own strengths. It serves as a safe place to share feelings, concerns, and beliefs, knowing it’s done in confidence and without judgement.

Paso a Paso resources and services

Families can connect with many community programs through referrals from Paso a Paso. Those include CalFresh, First 5 Play-groups, family resource centers and Healthy Kids Humboldt. There’s also help for qualifying families for items such as nutritional foods and, when available, car seats. Call Paso a Paso at 707-441-4477.

Visit our Annual Report to our Communities page

To learn more about what we’re doing to help our communities and other programs, check out our Annual Report to our Communities.

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About the Author

The Providence Health Team brings together caregivers from diverse backgrounds to bring you clinically-sound, data-driven advice to help you live your happiest and healthiest selves.

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