Grandparents, Health Workers, and Community Strengths: Lessons from San Antonio


Ishita Shukla

1st Year MPH Epidemiology Candidate

First and foremost, I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to South Central AHEC for hosting us this week and providing a comprehensive look into frontline public health and community work. I also deeply appreciate the community members who participated in our focus group and shared their invaluable insights, as well as our interviewees for their contributions.

Learning about promotoras, community health workers, and community interventions on the west side of San Antonio has profoundly influenced my perspective on the work I aspire to do as a future public health professional. A significant theme that emerged during our focus group was the community's frustration with medical appointments. Many felt that the visits were too brief and rushed, leaving them without the opportunity to have their questions answered or to feel empowered to ask them.

During the focus group, participants highlighted how medical information is often shared through peer learning. For example, one participant didn't know what a spacer was, and another explained how it helps ensure more asthma medication reaches the airways instead of escaping into the air. This interaction demonstrated a beautiful strength of the community: the willingness to share knowledge and learn from each other.

Another unique aspect of this community is the significant number of grandparents raising their grandchildren and the supportive network they've built around this. This theme emerged several times. During a self-care activity, AHEC staff highlighted participants who were in the same boat and during our key informant interview, the interviewee revealed her experience of raising her first grandchild. Additionally, during the windshield tour, we observed a space called the Good Samaritan Services Center, offering both senior and child/youth services in the same building. This underscored the crucial role grandparents play in shaping the younger generation’s lives and health outcomes.

As a student aiming to work at the intersection of public health and medicine, I am committed to addressing each patient's needs while also understanding the community they belong to. I want to observe how their community functions and where individuals fit within it. I also aim to recognize the unique strengths of each community and encourage healthcare professionals to learn more about their patient populations on a macro level.