In this episode of The Invisible Profession, we talk with Izzy Meda, the Executive Director at Familias en Acción, about the importance of community health workers and community-based organizations in the fight for health equity for Latinos.
“We really talk about gaps, right? Where you think that maybe we can come in and fill those gaps or bridge those gaps. But if I really learned anything over the last four years here is that the whole system really needs to be redone honestly. It’s really hard to be able to come into a giant system that has been operating against Latinos and BIPOC communities for such a long time, and then want to simply create some projects that might fill those gaps. And to be honest with you that’s not enough.
If we’ve learned anything over the last two years specifically, is that the pandemic has really, either unveiled or highlighted more so a lot of the racial disparities that exist within our health system and yes, language access is one of them and create a huge role during the COVID-19 pandemic or at the height of the pandemic, because we’re still going through it.” – Izzy Meda
Izzy moved to Eastern Oregon in 1999 from California. He is a first-generation college graduate with a BA in Business Administration. Izzy has served on several Boards for racial and social justice non-profit organizations. He has also participated in several POC leadership programs such as the Hispanic Chamber Latino Leadership Class, LGBTQ Racial and Social Justice Leadership, and Unid@s for Oregon a statewide leadership development program that fosters cohesion, trust, and relationships among Latino leaders.
On June 9th, 2022, the 13th Annual Latino Health Equity Conference celebrated The Power of Community while addressing the gaps and changes needed in the healthcare system. Linguava was honored to be a Madrina de Oro sponsor and provide interpretation for the bilingual conference.
Familias en Acción has a podcast as well, Abuelas en Acción, which focuses on health equity and economic justice, climate change and immigration justice.
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Transcript – The Invisible Profession Podcast Ep. 020
David: Hello everyone. Welcome. Thank you so much for being here with us today. It is an honor and a pleasure to be here with Izzy Meda, who is the executive director at Familias en Acción. Izzy, thanks for joining us today.
Izzy: Thanks for having me David. Super excited about this.
David: And Izzy is also a good dear friend of mine that goes back. Gosh, has it been what? 13, 14 years now?
Izzy: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s been that long. I had a lot of memories.
David: A lot of great memories and time sure flies. So tell us, Izzy in your role there at Familias en Acción. How long have you been there and what is the main mission of Familias en Acción?
Izzy: Actually I just completed my fourth year here as executive director of Familias en Acción. It’s been an incredible ride for me as executive director of a health organization going through two years of a health crisis, a global pandemic and the mission of Familias en Acción really is to strengthen the health of Latinos here in Oregon. It is an incredible mission because every word in that mission was thought out, we use the word, for example, strengthen the health because our communities are strong and our communities are healthy in a certain way.
And we want to make sure that we come in as an organization and enhance or strengthen the power and what Latinos really bring to this sector.
David: Such a powerful mission and message to the Latino community. As I look at your career Izzy, one of the things that stands out to me is the work that you’ve done, whether it’s in the education sector, whether it’s in home lending.
And now in Familias en Acción, it’s been about equity and bringing that equity and spreading it and expanding that throughout communities that are more marginalized. In the healthcare system today, what are some of the gaps that, that you see in healthcare for the Latino community? And if you can also touch on what role does language access play in that?
Izzy: You know, what’s really funny is that. We really talk about gaps, right? Where you think that maybe we can come in and fill those gaps or bridge those gaps. But if I really learned anything over the last four years here is that the whole system really needs to be redone honestly. It’s really hard to be able to come into a giant system that has been operating against Latinos and BIPOC communities for such a long time, and then want to simply create some projects that might fill those gaps. And to be honest with you that’s not enough.
If we’ve learned anything over the last two years specifically, is that the pandemic has really, either unveiled or highlighted more so a lot of the racial disparities that exist within our health system and yes, language access is one of them and create a huge role during the COVID-19 pandemic or at the height of the pandemic, because we’re still going through it.
And language access is still an issue. Is not stopped. And it’s not about how do we go in and fill those gaps meaning perhaps solutions, like how do we translate these documents, but rather how can we create documents from the very beginning that are in Spanish, right? It’s it’s doing it all over. It’s not filling in that gap.
David: Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head and I love how you worded that of let’s let’s not just fill in a gap. Let’s go back to the source. Let’s look at when things were being built and created and that’s really where language access needs to be in the forefront of the conversation as well.
And I know this is an important moment here for you guys at Familias en Acción. You have your annual conference coming up. And I encourage everyone to check that out. If you haven’t attended in the past, there’s anywhere from what 400 to 500 attendees attended last year. And I think on par to break that this year give us a little sentence or two on the conference for this year. And why is it a must attend.
Izzy: This year the Latino Health Equity conference is focusing on highlighting the importance of community health workers, and community based organizations. And really taking everything that we’ve learned over the last two years and the role that they play and that the role that they need to play in the healthcare system is really important.
We would not have been able to achieve the level of success, whatever that looks like in the Latino community with either education and COVID-19 on vaccinations, on information. We would not have been able to get where we are without community health workers and without community-based organizations. And the state and public health authorities are understanding and realizing that.
And I think that we’re really entering this sort of, kind of Renaissance of healthcare, where they’re really understanding that they need to work with community and that they need to work with community based organizations to be able to reach these families that have been left behind.
Our conferences at one point, it was very unique, meaning that it was the only bilingual conference that addressed Latino health equity. And we’ve had many partners. This is our 13th annual, and we’ve had partners that support us funding wise every year, but our conference really wouldn’t be able to be bilingual if it wasn’t for the support that Linguava is able to provide.
There is something unique to be able to come and learn and converse in your native language. And I believe that to be powerful, both healthcare and money. And you mentioned that I was a loan officer, like these are two things that you really want to address in your own language. I want to be able to understand, I want to be able to learn and know what’s going on.
And so we really think that being able to provide interpretation and keeping a bilingual conference as a Latino organization is important to us. So thank you so much Linguava.
David: It’s a real honor to be able to be there Izzy and help provide the language access to the community. For those individuals who are hearing about Familias en Acción maybe for the first time they’re going, wow.
What an incredible mission. I’d love to be able to be a part of it. What avenues or guidance can you give them if people want to be able to support or volunteer or donate? Where can they start?
Izzy: Something that I’ve learned in my tenure here Familias en Acción is I think a lot of folks have taken a look inward over the last two years, for sure.
And I’ve learned a lot about my own privileges and how I can use them to really support and I guess support and bring them in service of community. And so I believe that really recognizing like what are the privileges that I have, and being able to use those to help and support communities is important.
Whether I speak English, whether I have an education, whether I understand the health system or the transportation system or the education system, like there are things and knowledge that you have that you’re able to bring and help folks.
David: Thank you, Izzy that so powerful and it’s such a huge need. Again, for those of you who are attending we’ll see you at the conference.
And for those who haven’t yet registered. Izzy what’s the best way they can do that on your website? And when’s the cutoff for registration.
Izzy: Totally. You can register for our conference up until the day of, or the morning of which is June 9th. We have a whole day of virtual content, and we’re hoping to have an in-person component at the convention center on June 10th.
So go to latinohealthequity.org is our conference website. You’ll be able to navigate to register and access our agenda for the day.
David: Excellent. Hopefully you all will be able to join us there, and it will be an honor to serve you there as well. So thank you so much for joining us today Izzy.
Izzy: Thank you so much for having me, David. I really appreciate what you and Linguava do.
David: Thank you, Izzy.