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CANA Awarded ComPASS Funding

Unique San Francisco Health and Latino Community Collaboration Awarded Multiyear Funding from the National Institutes of Health


              Contact: Paul S. Flores 415-350-9775

OCTOBER 18, 2023—Cultura y Arte Nativa de las Americas (CANA), the San Francisco Mission District based organization that produces the annual Carnaval San Francisco, is one of 26 programs across the United States and Puerto Rico territory to be awarded multiyear, multimillion dollar funding from the National Institutes of Health Community Partnerships to Advance Science for Society (ComPASS). The SF based project titled “Somos Esenciales: Community Revitalization and Health Through Arts and Entrepreneurship,” (Award Number: 1OT2OD035895-01) is a mutliplatform intervention research project to promote health equity and lasting change for Native, Latino and Black communities in The Mission District. The project brings together the cultural programming and indigenous healing informed community development strategy of CANA with the academic research capacity of the University of California along with community partners like Friendship House, the Mayor’s Office and others. 

Somos Esenciales is a unique community research and art intervention project initiated to bring awareness and hold the city accountable to Latino essential workers who had lost livelihood during the COVID pandemic. Conceived in January 2021 by SF Mission based theater maker Paul S. Flores, who teamed up with local writer Adriana Camarena and then approached Roberto Hernandez, Artistic Director and CEO of CANA and founder of the Mission Food Hub, the initial participatory action research project was conducted with fourteen Spanish Speaking volunteers at the Mission Food Hub. The investigators interviewed community members and found that the decline in mental health was the biggest impact of the pandemic. Partnerships with Dr. Lisa Fortuna, former Chief of Psychiatry at SF General Hospital and UCSF Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences led to opportunities to expand research on bilingual Latinx mental health needs. Flores has since worked with the Mission Food Hub volunteers, as well as Adriana Camarena, UCSF, and Acción Latina, to create a documentary film, a research report, and live theater production based on their lives. Somos Esenciales has presented their research at UC Berkeley and UCSF Medical School and are also co-investigators on two research projects with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of California San Francisco at San Francisco General Hospital—one to study the ongoing impact of Long-Covid on the Latinx Immigrant community and social determinants of health, and a second NIMH funded study, SUPERA (PI Schueller and Aguilar and Co-I Fortuna), which focuses on a digitally delivered and peer coach supported therapy in Spanish for Latinx adults with depression. 

The new award to CANA funded by The NIH Common Fund adds capacity building for research infrastructure to evaluate the impact of CANA’s intervention on structural determinants of health. The comprehensive intervention includes affordable housing/home ownership initiative, urban gardening and food distribution, while harnessing economic development through transforming empty storefronts with Latino entrepreneurship, and providing culturally responsive wellness and mental healthcare. These efforts are a clear continuation and extension of CANA’s work and mission, critical for mental health (e.g., depression and anxiety), physical health (e.g., chronic illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes) and economic well-being of our families and community in a post COVID-19 recovery environment. 

Central to this collaborative plan is a community-based participatory action research approach with local Latino laborers, domestic workers, and cultural producers, in collaboration with health services research partners at UCSF and UC Riverside, whose goal together is to identify the relationship between systemic inequities, racial disparities, and physical and mental health outcomes. CANA and its partners will utilize this research as part of the NIH Common Fund launched by the Community Partnerships to Advance Science for Society, and to create and implement a multi-platform COVID-19 recovery plan and community revitalization for Latino, Indigenous, and Black residents of San Francisco’s Mission District that brings opportunities for all to thrive through community revitalization and structural interventions focused on home ownership, food access, bilingual health and wellness, and economic workforce development.

More information is available on the ComPASS program website:

Special thanks to the initial funders of the Somos Esenciales Project including National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC), Surdna Foundation, Southwest Folklife Alliance, Creative Work Fund, The Rainin Foundation, fiscal sponsor Acción Latina, and all who have supported this project since 2020.

*Click here for the trailer of the Somos Esenciales Short Documentary Film: