Giving Compass’ Take:
• Ananya Garg explains how programs can help bridge cultural, language, and understanding gaps that prevent Somali women from taking care of their health in the U.S.
• Many of the issues addressed by the programs mentioned below have culturally-specific factors. How can other cultures be reached through informed and specific programs?
It’s an early Saturday evening, and nurse practitioner Muna Osman and her team are setting up a community meeting room at the Living Well Kent center for one of their health care classes. Osman has hosted these classes on health and well-being for Somali women in the metropolitan Seattle-Tacoma area for the past two-and-a-half years.
This particular day in Kent—where many immigrants and refugees in the greater Seattle area live—the topic is nutrition, and Osman and her team have brought in a local Somali nutritionist to speak with the women and lead a food demonstration. Quinoa is available for the women to try, which the nutritionist explains is a healthy alternative to rice and pasta—foods many Somalis eat frequently. There is also Somali tea and chickpea soup—a traditional Somali dish—prepared by Osman from her mother’s recipe.
The discussion soon moves past food and into cultural norms—an underlying theme of these classes. While Osman and her team of doulas, volunteers, and educators regularly instruct the women on health-related matters, they also address negative experiences and frustrations they have with the U.S. health care system.
Researchers found in a 2010 study originally published in Social Science & Medicine Journal that Somali women’s health beliefs “related closely to situational factors and contrasted sharply with the biological model that drives Western medicine.” To alleviate their vexation, health care practitioners in largest Somali communities around the country—Minneapolis, Seattle, and Columbus, Ohio—provide services that meet their medical and cultural needs. Osman and her team work with the Mama Ammaan Project: African Mother to Mother Antenatal Assistance Network in the Seattle area to provide the women with access to better and more culturally responsive health care. Mama Ammaan, which means “safe mother” trains doulas and offers free health and well-being education to the women.
Read the full article about bridging the health care understanding gap by Ananya Garg at YES! Magazine.
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