Community Outreach for Minorities: Helping Somali Immigrants Navigate the Healthcare System
Submitted by Deborah Clark, MLIS, AHIP, Leader, Healthy Communities COI
Many of you in the Health Communities COI are interested in reaching out to various ethnic and minority groups in your communities. Here is one example of a successful project:
This is an interview with the Project Developer Kathy Brunjes, MLIS, AHIP, Central Maine Medical Center, Lewiston, ME
Deb- Kathy, how did you decide to undertake a project to reach out to the Somali community?
Kathy- Beginning in 2001, the Lewiston/Auburn area of Western Maine began experiencing a large and growing refugee and immigrant population of Somali/Bantu Somalis. English was (and is) a second language for these refugees, and health providers were identifying communication issues when trying to provide health care, as well as the refugees experiencing communication issues when attempting to access the healthcare system. Around this time, the Gerrish-True Health Sciences Library of Central Maine Medical Center was undertaking a project with our Family Medicine Residency Program to gather information the Residents could give to patients on basic health and wellness topics; since the refugees were being “steered” to the (then) Immigrant Clinic being staffed by the Residents, the pieces all fell together to provide outreach to our new Lewiston/Auburn residents. Our initial funding request was for a larger project entitled, “Building a Health Information Pathway for the Lewiston/Auburn Somali Population” and morphed into an instructional video (the “Just Ask” video/DVD).
Deb- Was there a particular group or organization you found to collaborate with you?
Kathy- We worked very closely with the Central Maine Healthcare Family Medicine Residency Program, as well as the Healthy Androscoggin organization (a social services organization serving Androscoggin County), the CMMC International Medicine Clinic and with the United Somali Women of Maine, THRIVE ( a graduated system of care for Maine trauma victims), Catholic Charities of Maine, and the Maine Health & Human Services Department. We also included our area public libraries as the project was being developed.
Deb- Once the needs were identified, what form did the outreach take?
Kathy- Outreach became a 10 minute instructional video/DVD on basic information about access to the U.S. healthcare system, and Central Maine Medical Center services, basic information about the services of the CMMC Gerrish-True Health Sciences Library and an introduction to consumer health information available at the CMMC Library; the video was produced in three languages: English, Somali, Maay Maay. Included in the consumer health information was how to access MedlinePlus, where to find translated materials via the Internet, and a collection of print materials (translated).
Deb- Where did you get funding to produce the video?
Kathy- Our funding came from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, New England Region (NN/LM NER) through outreach funding provided by the NN/LM NER.
Deb- How have you marketed or publicized the outreach?
Kathy- we distributed the “Just Ask” DVD to all the service organizations in the Lewiston-Auburn communities, as well as the public libraries, libraries in HSLIC (Health Sciences Library and Information Consortium – Maine), NAHSL (North Atlantic Health Sciences Libraries) and the Maine State Library. The Lewiston Sun Journal newspaper promoted our project, as did a segment of the Channel 6 (NBC affiliate,WCSH-6 TV) evening news and 207 television program (airs nightly, 7:00-7:30 pm). We promoted the DVD at community health and skills fairs, and the NN/LM NER highlighted our project during a poster presentation at the 2009 NAHSL conference. The producers of the DVD, Leighton Images, also publicized the work.
Deb- What was the time commitment involved? How were you able to fit this into your work schedule?
Kathy- Once we had the logistics worked out, the time commitment was minimal on our (Library) part: we provided work space for taping segments, and coordinated the “actors” involved with Leighton Images and our Public Relations department. Although the grant writing process and needs assessment took the majority of our time, we scheduled formal meetings with the grant writing department (Hospital) and PR department; the PR department helped the Library with coordinating the shooting and script writing for the DVD. Leighton Images was instrumental in the final script/product and obtaining the “right” community members (“actors”) to play the roles in the actual DVD. The whole process took approximately six months to coordinate before we had the end product.
Deb- Have you been able to assess any positive outcomes from your project?
Kathy- the DVD is still being used in the International Medicine Clinic and at the Family Practice Residency. We have many members of the Somali/Bantu community using the CMMC Gerrish-True Health Sciences Library, and we have requests on a monthly basis for copies of the DVD. We originally produced 500 copies, and have approximately 100 copies remaining.
Deb- Any final thoughts for others considering reaching out to a minority or ethnic group?
Kathy- Once you have identified the need (a really in-depth needs assessment), the actual outreach becomes the “easy” part of the equation. The hardest job any librarian (in my humble opinion) has is in promoting the library and its services. We know what we do, but we aren’t always good about telling the story. Once you have identified key players and involved them in the outreach process (in our case, members of the Somali leadership in Lewiston-Auburn) the process becomes collaborative in-and-of itself!