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The Columbus Dispatch: OhioHealth Doctors Hospital Teams With Somali Community

Relationship opens up communication and education

For most people, a trip to the doctor or emergency room is familiar. You go, get seen, and hopefully get better. From a hospital system perspective, that care happens regardless of who is coming in, and where they are from. But in some cases there can be barriers. Some of those might be language barriers, some might be unfamiliarity of the operations, and sometimes there might be a lack of knowledge from a cultural perspective. On the west side of Columbus, at OhioHealth Doctors Hospital, they have seem some of that population grow when it comes to Somali families; some have never seen a doctor.

In 2011, manager of pastoral care at OhioHealth Doctors Hospital, says the west side hospital saw 56% of the systems Somali patients. With that in mind, Walton started to work hard on education within the walls of the hospital, and education within the Somali population about who the hospital is, and how they can best be utilized by a group of families that have historically had questions and concerns about medical care here in the United States.

"We’re a faith-based organization," she said. "And so, from a place of deep faith, we should somehow open up our hearts to anybody else with deep faith."

As part of her position within the OhioHealth hospital system, Walton reached out and started a relationship with leadership at the Abubakar Asiddiq Islamic Center.

She also started working hard at the hospital level with educational seminars so employees who came into contact most with the Somali population could understand where they might be coming from before that first visit ever happens.

Dr. John Casey sees a number of Somali patients come through the doors in a 10 hour shift. He believes education and outreach are a huge benefit from both sides of the medical experience.

"That’s the point of these meetings and this community reach-out," Casey said. "It helps to bridge that gap, and it helps when you're taking care of a person — if you can understand that the fear or the concern is not about you, it's about all they know from their background."

It hasn’t stopped just at the medical level. The relationship and outreach took yet another step with a touch-a-truck event for Somali families. More than 200 people attended the event, with Somali children getting to climb on fire equipment, and the men and women of the community getting face to face with first responders in a whole different way.

The goal is simple, working to build these relationships, build relationships with emergency-service providers, and to help medical personnel understand the cultural and historical issues behind Somali fears and concerns.

"I was always aware of the cultural barrier between our community, as immigrants who just fled from a country that’s completely collapsed, and mainstream America," said Horsed Nooh, director of the Islamic center.

A barrier hopefully being broken down thanks to a willingness to work together, for the greater good of all involved.

To read more about the partnership in the story by The Columbus Dispatch, simply click on the logo.