Providence, R.I., Agency Provides Care to Southeast Asian Community
The Providence Journal recently profiled Independence Health Services, a new home health care agency in Providence, R.I., that focuses on serving Southeast Asians who face language and cultural barriers to care. Many of them are refugees and survivors of war in their home countries. National studies indicate that Southeast Asians are disproportionately affected by post-traumatic stress, diabetes and other chronic conditions.
Independence Health Services -- which was founded by a Cambodian refugee and his mother, who is a nurse -- has about eight employees and plans to hire more staff of Southeast Asian descent to provide services in Hmong and Laotian. The agency also provides interpreter services in Cambodian and relies on a local language bank for Spanish and other languages. The agency treats Medicaid beneficiaries and is awaiting approval for Medicare certification.
Marc "Poe" Harrison, Independence Health Services' outreach coordinator, said many elderly members of the Southeast Asian community are "very, very isolated when their children get married and move away" and might ignore health issues until the situation becomes dire or seek assistance from sources other than a medical provider.
At least 20,000 Southeast Asians live in Rhode Island, according to Margaret Chang, a Brown University medical student who recently conducted a six-month study on barriers to health care among the population. Chang said some health care providers who regularly care for Southeast Asians do not "know how to interact with them, and don't know their problems."
Chang's study recommends that the state work to increase the number of certified Southeast Asian interpreters, as well as encourage the development of more home health agencies to provide care for Southeast Asians, particularly elderly patients. Chang said the study findings will soon be disseminated to health care providers across the state (Ziner, Providence Journal, 4/18).