This post was written by Maggie Gómez, a former member of our team.
I believe that the most effective way to create lasting, positive change is for directly-affected community members to organize and demand their needs be met. Center for Health Progress believes that, too, and that’s why we want to center all of our work around community organizing.
Recently, we made some big progress through our organizing in Fort Morgan that I’m excited to share. This spring, under the leadership of Erika Serrano, our Fort Morgan Community Organizer, we began the first phase of our new local campaign, Nuestra Comunidad, Nuestra Salud. The goal is to improve the health care system for immigrants (anyone who was born outside of the US) in Fort Morgan and Morgan County. This is important because local hospitals and clinics aren’t meeting community needs. The focus of the campaign is to organize immigrants to have a deeper understanding of the most common and pressing barriers to health and health care facing the community, and invite the local hospitals and clinics to work with us to implement solutions that have been identified by the campaign leaders.
The campaign leaders are the local community members we’ve been working with for a while now—some for a year and others for two. Our leaders and staff are working with researchers, one of whom is a member of our Board of Directors, with exceptional international research experience, to get training on how to collect data and information and do effective community outreach. The campaign leaders determined the campaign name and research questions, and they will do the same for surveys this fall. We collected interviews in Spanish and Somali and are already getting great results that show how immigrant families are dealing with issues like clinic hours, so they can access care after work.
Just as essential as the information we’re getting in the field, it’s also important how we’re getting it. We’ve been learning about advocacy, the cost of care and how to talk about it, as well as the basics of Medicaid. In connection with our statewide advocacy with the Coalition for Immigrant Health, the Morgan Health Connectors are getting informed on the public benefits available to immigrants, and how this is all connects to the proposed changes to the ‘public charge’ rule. We had staff and grassroots members tabling side-by-side at the International Music Festival event, teaching community members about public benefits and local resources for help and assistance, and recruiting more people to our campaign. Also, our organizing leaders have been showing their leadership in many ways this year: Silvia co-presented at our Medicaid 101 event, Gardenia is keeping the Morgan Health Connectors updated on the latest campaign updates, Sitina is helping us connect with Somali speakers, and we’re just getting started.
Lastly, another big accomplishment this spring was opening our
second office in Fort Morgan, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. We have been organizing in this community since 2017, and we are honored and excited that we’ve made good inroads and found space for our contributions to the health justice and equity movement here. None of this would be possible without the relationships, trust, and shared values we hold with our leaders, partners, and supporters in Fort Morgan.