Grameen Meetings in the Bronx Provide More than Business Training

Ricaida has been learning about much more than business and savings at her weekly Grameen America center meetings—recently she came home with a pamphlet describing different contraception methods. At these meetings, she is not just making repayments on her loans, getting financial training, and catching up with the other women in her group. What she has learned recently has had a big impact on her health.

Every week, after their business is done, a promotora, or health coach, gives a presentation on a particular health and wellness issue. Afterwards, the women are able to explore the topic and ask questions. Recently they discussed reproductive health and family planning, and the center meeting provided a safe space for the women to have an open conversation. Other weeks the topics have included: nutrition, physical activity, domestic violence, mental health. “There’s a lot of information we’re getting here that we don’t get out there, whether it’s from doctors or clinics, or at our jobs,” said Ricaida.  

Recognizing that financial wellbeing and physical health are inextricably linked, Grameen America has been partnering with its sister organization Grameen PrimaCare to offer health education and system navigation services to members in the Bronx borough of New York City. Our pilot project Grameen Promotoras leverages our group lending model and long-term relationships in the community. A promotora is an individual from the community who has been trained to provide basic health education to her peers. The promotoras who are a part of our program lead all Grameen health workshops, which are designed to be interactive and discussion-based. They play an invaluable role in the community and act as liaisons between health professionals and our women members.

In addition to the weekly workshops, the health coaches provide the women with basic health screenings, referrals for health services, assistance in scheduling necessary medical appointments, and support in navigating the health system and attaining social services. They also offer general peer support. Thus far, more than 750 women have benefited from these services.

The New York City health system can be daunting, and the promotoras help the women identify and use existing community resources, manage their health care costs and bills, and access negotiated low-cost diagnostic tests and medications.

For Ricaida, the workshops have helped her lead a healthier life: “Now I know when you buy something at the store to look at the label…all the junk [food] I used to buy is out the door.”

Another Grameen America member, Rosa, also appreciates the information she has received, “I’ve learned so much about things I didn’t know about before.” She too says the health education has changed her grocery shopping and the way she lives. “It’s changed a lot for me, attending these talks—as a person and in my activities. I try to exercise and walk more.”

In the past, Rosa said, she and the other members didn’t know about illnesses or diseases, or where to get services. “We ignored these problems.”