East African Healthcare Reform Roundtable seeks to share knowledge

Explaining health care reform, which entails deciphering complicated timelines, legalese and technical medical terms, can be daunting even for native English speakers. Members of the East African Healthcare Reform Roundtable are attempting to do all that and overcome language and cultural barriers for immigrants whose traditions focus on oral, rather than written, means of communications.

Group members include representatives from Horn of Africa Community in North America, Somali Youth United, Huda Community Center, Somali Family Service of San Diego, Nile Sisters Development Initiative, Southern Sudanese Community Center of San Diego, South Sudan Christian Youth and Community Organization and the Center for Bridging Communities.

Funded by The California Endowment as part of its Building Healthy Communities initiative, the roundtable is intended to help the East African community understand federal health care reform. The group has been meeting once a month since January and is still in the strategic planning stage. Facilitators are helping leaders collaborate and increase their knowledge.

“It is a very complex issue even for health care workers,” said Yasmin Hamud, executive director of the Center for Bridging Communities. She is on the governing body of the Mid-City Community Advocacy Network, also known as Mid-City CAN, which coordinates the partnerships for the roundtable.

“The idea is to bring together this group of thought leaders in the community to learn as much as they can, so they can turn around and share this information,” said Lenore Lowe, executive director of Nonprofit Management Solutions, which is facilitating and advising the group.

The roundtable is creating a shared vision and action plan for community outreach and advocacy. “The areas of focus includes sharing knowledge about health care reform and medical rights and increasing the ability for leaders in the East African communities to work collaboratively,” Lowe said.

Hamud gave an example of what these efforts might look like in City Heights. “The average Somali person that I represent in my community [might not be] able to read these articles about the reform,” she said. “We as community leaders can sort of break it down for them in a language they can understand and in a format that will be useful.”

Hamud said leaders of the East African community in City Heights will be able to talk about parts of the legislation that are most likely to have the biggest impact. “[Community members] might not even understand that, for years and years and years, their adult children who lived with them couldn’t get insurance, well, now they can,” she said. Hamud anticipates doing one-on-one outreach to people as well as larger trainings.

Meanwhile, the roundtable is looking at some unique strategies to disseminate information. “When you’re talking about translation, that doesn’t necessarily mean written translation, but oral translation that can be recorded and provided, because there is an oral tradition in the Somali and Sudanese community,” Lowe said.

Tagline: Adam Ward is the Mid-City CAN staff writer and a former San Diego Union-Tribune editor. Adam has lived in San Diego for nearly a decade and is the father of a young son. Contact him at award@midcitycan.org or (619) 283-9624 ext. 210.