the PEER LEADER NAVIGATORS: a new multicultural initiative
by marisol g. vargas
Linda Shepard teaching the PLN’S (from left to right) Linda, Ngone, Tuka, Marisol, Zabeeba.
5 years ago, The Peer Leader Navigator (PLN) program was formed as a multicultural, multilingual health education and outreach initiative designed to improve, and facilitate the access of information of people living in our community.
The Alaska Health Literacy Collaborative (TAHLC) provides training, resources and support that empowers each PLN with knowledge and skills to provide health promotion and disease prevention activities. The PLNs receive advanced health education training including emergency preparedness, First Aid, and how to access mental health resources.
The PLNs have the first-hand lived experience of coming to a new country and trying to access and navigate complicated health information and community resources that in many cases can be an overwhelming process. The program counts with 23 PLN’s, representing 15 different languages and cultures from Spanish to Arabic and Nepali.
The PLNs help to remove barriers to health information and increase access to health care and community resources; they serve as a cultural bridge between the community and health care system. They provide information and resources to the community in a way that is understandable and useable. PLNs also inform health care providers about the best way to reach people in the community and provide services that are culturally relevant.
Marisol Vargas, one of the first PLN’s, explains that “the most rewarding part is interacting with people and being able to help them have their voice heard in our community.”
In the end, the PLN’s are committed to these efforts because they have a desire to help people, who like themselves, have had difficulty accessing health information, resources, and navigating a complicated health care system.