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New Learning Collaborative Series Strengthens the Capacities of Health Workers to Improve Response to Public Health Emergencies in Puerto Rico

New learning collaborative

In one small community in Puerto Rico, a young man was reluctant to get vaccinated for COVID-19 – until he got sick.  After infecting several vulnerable people with multiple chronic conditions and elders in the community, the young man desperately asked to be vaccinated. We often see that it takes a health-related scare from loved ones or close ones for certain people to choose to get vaccinated. However, health education, training, and community outreach provided by health professionals can be equally effective without putting people's lives at risk.

Like people across the US, Puerto Ricans have been perplexed by the constantly shifting information about COVID-19. The lack of effective systems and coordinated risk communication plans has increased misinformation regarding protection and prevention measures, perpetuating the strain on health care systems and their providers, and increasing resistance to vaccination. 

Yet, over the course of the pandemic, Puerto Rico has sustained additional difficulties in accessing health services in addition to COVID. Multiple earthquakes and hurricanes María and Fiona have caused damage to health infrastructure and reduced services, both of which have contributed to generating a unsustainable burden on the health system. Especially affected are vulnerable and underserved communities, whose lack of access to quality health services and culturally and linguistically appropriate health information increases health inequities, their ability to make informed decisions and, in conjunction with other social determinants of health, places them at greater risk of contagion and suffering both short- and long- term health consequences. Demand has exceeded the capacity of community service providers, who are overloaded and unable to meet all the health education needs of the patients they serve. 

To promote the health of these vulnerable communities, with support from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, Migrant Clinicians Network developed a community-based approach to prevention and health education for Puerto Ricans in Spanish. The four-part learning collaborative series, with the lengthy title, “Strengthening Capacities in Community Health Centers and Health Workers to Improve the Response to the Pandemic of Public Health Emergencies (Including COVID-19) in Underserved Communities in Puerto Rico,” was designed to encourage learning in a participatory environment among health service providers and strengthen the capacity development of community organizations. Through the sessions, participants learned, developed, and implemented new ideas through the experience, challenges, and opportunities of their collective experiences. They presented updated clinical and public health information on COVID-19, identified different approaches to mindfulness practices for stress management of health workers during public health emergencies, and highlighted best practices and strategies to reach to underserved communities with effective risk communication. 

Very few updated, community-based, Spanish-language trainings are available on COVID resources and information. To increase access, MCN has released the recordings for all four sessions, so more communities can benefit from the recommendations and resources shared at the event aimed at managing the challenges associated with public health events and emergencies.

Visit MCN’s Archived Webinar page for the entire series:


Fortalecimiento de capacidades en centros de salud comunitaria y trabajadores de salud para mejorar la respuesta a la pandemia de emergencias de salud pública (incluyendo COVID-19) en comunidades desatendidas en Puerto Rico


Access the webinar sessions individually:

Session 1: Manejo de salud mental durante emergencias de salud pública
Session 2: Ponte al día con COVID-19 y otras enfermedades
Session 3: Estrategias de control para mejorar la calidad de aire
Session 4: Comunicación de riesgo y manejo de desinformación

Our learning sessions offered in Puerto Rico are part of a larger national program that MCN is carrying out with generous support from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.