Karina Chavez (MPH '16)

Virginia Cooperative Extension - Family Nutrition Program Practicum

Practicum objectives: Engage in team-based coordination and action for a community-based outreach and research program; Develop a proposal for implementation of FNP Programs to the Hispanic communities in Virginia; Develop recommendations for implementation of Health Promotores (biligual volunteers) to aproach the Hispanic communities in Virginia.

Practicum activities: Observation of FNP programs to determine the best way to reach the Hispanic audience with FNP programming; Consideration of the promotora approach, and familiarization of promotora best practices from other programs (such as training bilingual community volunteers to deliver FNP programs to the Hispanic audience); Additional research would be focused on interpreting and adapting one program to use as a model or “test program”; Visits to three other existing Promotora Programs Working with Latinos in Richmond, Harrisonburg, and Washington DC., to participate and learn from their experiences.

Practicum deliverable: Recommendation for a training model for FNP to engage the Hispanic audience in FNP programs – this included how to enroll them, best location for programs, best teachers for programs, and any cultural modifications (including social, economic, structural) necessary to implement effective strategies for program evaluation. It also included strategies to identify and recruit the bilingual community volunteers (Promotoras).

I chose to work with the Family Nutrition Program (FNP) of the Virginia Cooperative Extension because they wanted to start working with the Latino population in Virginia, and my role was to determine (through developing a needs assessment) the best way to reach this population. As a Latina myself, I immediately I though it was a great opportunity to work with this group and use my Spanish skills as well.

The needs assessment I developed as the deliverable for my practicum was used as the formative evaluation part of a new Promotora program that the FNP implemented in Roanoke during Summer 2016, which means that Latinos are benefiting from it, getting more educated, and hopefully healthier.

Putting into practice the theory of completing a needs assessment was very useful, data analysis, including interpreting quantitative and qualitative data (focus groups and in-depth interviews) was also worthwhile.

I was able to meet many people working in the public health field, not only in Roanoke, VA, but also in different places in Virginia while visiting other Promotora programs, which helped me create a big network of contacts.

  • Find a balance between what your interests are in public health and what opportunities are available for you in the field. 
  • Elaborate specific goals for practicum, making sure your preceptor is on board and your deliverable will be a beneficial product for the institution you will be working with.
  • Communicate with your advisors at an early stage of the program, and during Practicum also start to generate ideas for Capstone.
Karina Chavez
Karina Chavez participating in the Promotoras Program at "La Clinica del Pueblo" in Washington, DC..