Chicago Mental Health Center Uses Proyecto HEAL Model to Enhance Its Youth Leadership Program

Program to Address Sociocultural Barriers to Health Care in Hispanic Communities

From 1992 to 1997, staff at the Pilsen-Little Village Community Mental Health Center developed and implemented community-based interventions that would address sociocultural barriers to health care for Hispanic Americans in the Lower West (Pilsen) and South Lawndale (Little Village) areas of Chicago's Near South/West Side.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Program to Address Sociocultural Barriers to Health Care in Hispanic Communities national program.

Key Results: Making use of Proyecto HEAL's organizing concepts of empowerment, access and leadership, project staff:

  • Recruited youth from area schools and their families for the center's Youth Leadership Program, which was designed to train youth peer-educators. An estimated 75 families participated in the leadership program, which was held during three academic years.
  • Conducted Youth Health Summits in each of two years, engaging some 500 youths annually in activities designed to develop leadership skills.
  • Participated in 25 partnerships and coalitions with other agencies that included Neighbors Against Gang Violence, the American Heart Association and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
  • Conducted 17 programs for its community, including:
    • A fitness awareness program providing youth with an introduction to physical and mental health.
    • A performance workshop on AIDS where youth learned dance, theater, video, and production skills, and gave numerous local performances.
    • CPR training where youth received CPR certification through a program presented by the American Heart Association and the Chicago Fire Department.
    • A variety of health education field trips through which youth received exposure to programs designed to address alcohol and drugs, drunk driving, and HIV/AIDS.
  • Engaged in activities that addressed other community health issues, including:
    • Dental health
    • Environmental health
    • Health risk reduction