June 9, 2011
Outstanding Community Outreach
No matter how well-trained in medicine or nursing they may
be, many health care providers aren’t prepared for the challenges that come
with differences in language and culture in an increasingly diverse population.
But that is precisely what doctors and dentists at International Community
Health Services in Seattle attend to on a daily basis.
For more than 35 years, health care providers at ICHS have
been helping Asian, East African, Latino, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific
Islander immigrants and refugees in Seattle and King County receive quality
health care. In 2008, for instance, ICHS served 16,000 individual patients,
about 80 percent of whom are Asian or Pacific Islanders. And many are new
arrivals to the United States, sometimes bringing health conditions such as
hepatitis B and tuberculosis from their home countries, says Teresita Batayola,
the CEO at ICHS.
Teresita Batayola, CEO of
“The complexity comes in the language and cultural
barriers,” Batayola explains, adding that some of the difficulties in treating
patients, aside from sorting through the 50 languages spoken by ICHS patients,
is finding a compromise between Western and Eastern medical treatments. “There
is the attempt on our part to balance what they know with homeopathic remedies
or culturally appropriate remedies that are perfectly fine, but that are at
times not enough. It’s got to be done very sensitively because these are
practices that they are used to.”
And so ICHS physicians often face the question of how to
treat their patients in a culturally professional way, one that both promotes
education and eradicates fear.
For ICHS, with locations in south Seattle’s Holly Park and
in the thick of the bustling International District, the answer is outreach.
Volunteers and paid community advocates from different cultural backgrounds and
who speak a variety of languages from Tagalog to Cantonese go to community
centers and churches, attend health fairs and visit homes to introduce ICHS.
They let locals know they are welcome there, that the providers speak their
language and that their cultures will be respected. ICHS also has partnerships
with area grocery stores, such as Uwajimaya, where it performs free screenings
for blood pressure, hypertension (a common malady among ICHS patients) and
“We send dentists out to health fairs and we have midlevel
physician assistants and nutritionists who go out and hold sessions at the
health fairs and at classes in the community,” Batayola says. Time is at a
premium. Among the biggest challenges, she notes, is getting those who need
care to see a doctor before they develop serious problems.
Adding to the issue of accessibility at ICHS is the cost.
ICHS is federally funded, so anyone can visit, regardless of income or ability
to pay. Fees are on a sliding scale and the staff works to get patients
qualified for programs such as Medicaid or Basic Health.
Ray Heacox, president, KING-TV
A sufferer of multiple sclerosis, Heacox has chaired the
Rayburn Lewis, executive director, Swedish/Ballard Medical
Staff, Olympic Medical Center
For three years, the staff at Olympic Medical Center in Port