By Rebecca Rakoczy
CLARKSTON—On a typical weekday at Ethne Clinic in Clarkston, Drs. Andrew and Esther Kim will see patients who may speak more than 26 different languages. Many of their patients in this diverse community have diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.
“Explaining how to manage their disease in their native language is often a challenge, especially when it comes to food and medicine,” said Dr. Esther Kim.
A new healthcare ‘toolkit’ may help bridge that gap, she said.
Developed by Georgia State University's School of Public Health and Adult Literacy Research Center at the College of Education & Human Development, the toolkit contains videos and brochures on diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and healthy eating published in 13 languages.
During their doctor’s visit, a patient can see videos that describe these conditions. The videos and brochures were created to be culturally sensitive.
“If the patient watching the video speaks the same language as the characters in the video, she’ll be receiving critical health information in a linguistically and culturally relevant way,” said Dr. Mary Helen O’Connor, director of the Clarkston Center for Community Engagement at Perimeter College, and principal investigator for the grant.
The project was funded by a grant from the Georgia Health Foundation.
Low levels of literacy and health literacy, combined with language and cultural differences, are common challenges to delivering health information in vulnerable refugee, immigrant and migrant communities, said Dr. Iris Feinberg, associate director of the Adult Literacy Research Center.
“Our data collected from the Clarkston community shows that language is the No. 1 barrier to health access and healthcare,” Dr. Feinberg said.
The Kims at Ethne Health and Mike Sorrells of Grace Village Medical Clinic are on a community advisory board for the Prevention Research Center (PRC) in Clarkston and provided input on the toolkit materials based on their patients’ needs.
Georgia State’s PRC develops culturally and linguistically appropriate interventions to address the disparities and determinants of health for refugee and migrant communities. Funded through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the PRC is part of a network of academic research facilities in the United States that study how underserved populations and their communities can avoid or mitigate the risks of chronic illnesses.
“These toolkits will help overcome the language barrier and promote better health outcomes in the communities we serve,” Dr. Kim said. “Often the lack of linguistically or culturally appropriate material makes following health recommendations difficult. I am hopeful this can help bridge the gap.”
Over the next few months, the efficacy of the toolkits in helping change those behaviors will be tracked by the clinicians and reported back to the PRC. A website for other healthcare providers who serve refugee, immigrant and migrant patients is now available at hit.gsucreate.org.