Isthmus (Madison, Wisconsin) (11.08.12)
Home health parties have become a very successful method of educating Latinas in Wisconsin about sexual health. The parties, which are based on the home party plan used to sell jewelry and other goods, were developed by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin (PPWI) specifically for Latinas. Maria Barker, PPWI’s multicultural program manager and a Latina, began them in 2006 in response to the high rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among Latinos. Data from the Wisconsin Department of Heath Services show teen birth rates among the Latino population to be 3.5 times higher and STD rates 1.6 times higher than those of Caucasians. Also, there is little communication about sex in the Latino community. Barker describes the goal as providing a comfortable, nonjudgmental place to educate families with fact-based, medically accurate, and age-appropriate information.
The home health party usually consists of a small group of participants—about 10 family members and friends of the volunteer host—and is led by a trained “promotore de salud” health educator. The educator presents a two-hour interactive presentation and discussion on one of seven topics: cultural values in sexuality, anatomy, puberty, adult/child communication, birth control, STDs, and breast and cervical cancer. PPWI provides childcare if needed and a stipend to buy snacks so that hosting would not create a financial burden. When designing the model, Barker realized the curriculum had to be culturally relevant and geared to the whole family, not only to women. She also took into account the religious aspect of the culture.
In the first year of operation, PPWI reached 800 Latinos with one health educator. In 2011, it reached more than 5,000 Latinas through hundreds of parties in Madison and Milwaukee with 10 health educators. The program has been so successful that it has received the support of a pro-life Milwaukee priest who became educated as a health promoter to help PPWI with topics related to sexuality and faith. PPWI has a two-year planning grant to evaluate how to expand the party outreach model and has implemented a version of the program in schools and churches. Barker was also invited to speak on a panel at the White House on how to implement the party model on a national scale. She views the key to success of the home health parties as keeping them small and local. In addition to the health aspects, the parties have provided many Latinas with social circles in the community.
For more information on home health parties, contact Maria Barker at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 414-289-3788.