April is National Minority Health Month
Imagine you are sick, or your child is sick. You go to the doctor, but you are not able to communicate with him to tell him what is wrong, and you can’t understand what he is saying. This is the reality for many Spanish-speakers in the United States. April is National Minority Health Month, a time to learn more about the health status of minority populations. Shawnee Health Care strives to improve the health status of our local Hispanic population through our Farmworker Health Program.
Through our Farmworker Health Program, both Migrant and Seasonal farmworkers are able to access medical, dental, mental health, nutrition counseling, pharmacy and social services. Also, a team of bilingual, bicultural outreach workers are professionally trained to provide medical interpreting in Spanish at Shawnee Health Care, as well as case management, health education, outreach, and help with transportation arrangements.
Karla Grathler, the Program Coordinator, says that while diabetes, hypertension, dental, and skin conditions are all prevalent health problems within this population, one of the biggest health care-related problems she and her team see is the lack of understanding of preventative health care.
“We try to raise awareness of how crucial it is to stay involved in their health care, to get their annual screenings, and to bring their kids to their annual check-ups. Our providers are looking at your overall health, and that’s how you improve your lifestyle and your quality of life.”
Karla and her team say that education is one of the most important things that they do. Maria Arellano, Interpreter/Outreach Worker, says that every time a patient comes in, she tries to give them different health education resources tailored to their healthcare needs. “For example, if they are diabetic, we have resources on how it affects your eyesight down to your toes,” says Maria.
Although medical interpretation and education are important parts of this team’s job, this only scratches the surface of what they do. These women truly advocate for their patients. Karla says, “Our staff are interpreters, but we go beyond that. We wear so many hats. We do outreach, we do medical interpretation, we do transportation, we do case management—patients feel like we can take care of them.” They have this reputation in the community; patients travel from Chester, Red Bud, and Cape Girardeau for their services.
They notice patients feel more confident at their appointments when an interpreter is present. Karla says, “It’s very interesting to see the demeanor of the patients when they do not speak the language of the provider. You think, ‘Oh they’re very shy. They don’t speak. They’re very quiet,’ but I have learned in my experience that this is not always the case. When we put the patient with an interpreter, they start asking questions. They become a different person. Once they hear their native language, they feel, ‘Oh, I can now express myself how I want.’”
These women provide an invaluable service to Spanish-speakers in southern Illinois. Thank you, Karla Grathler, Maria Arellano, Rita Elibey Basillo, Maribel Paleo-Medina, and Nataly Gomez, for your hard work, dedication, and service to our Spanish-speaking patients.