Important health matters are hard enough to understand when both parties - the information provider and the recipient - speak the same language. When that is not the case, however, making sure that the material is accurately received and processed can be a tremendous challenge.
The South Nashville Family Resource Center (FRC) hosted a Women's Health Fair recently. The primary audience was Nashville's refugee community, many of whom are Catholic Charities of Tennessee clients.
Hosting the event was far more than simply arranging some tables and chairs and pulling together some literature, according to Leslie Hayes, director of the FRC.
"We knew that we would need to be prepared for the language barrier," she said. To address that, "we made the stations as visually relevant to the information as possible. In other words, we tried to show instead of tell."
"We collaborated with St. Thomas Family Health Center South; they graciously donated the space and provided us with their staff nutritionist, a registered dietician, who taught about portion control and diabetes management. She had a very visual display, exactly what our clients needed."
A representative from Vanderbilt University's CASTLE (Communities and Students Together for Learning-Enhanced Service) program was on-hand, as well, addressing various aspects of breast health.
"Interns from the University of Tennessee College of Social Work and Middle Tennessee State University did a great job of hammering out the event's details," Hayes added. They also created interactive stations about exercising at home without special equipment and limiting dietary salt and sugar intake.
Becky Roy, program coordinator for Refuge Handicrafts, saw the event as more than simply an opportunity to provide her clients, recently arrived refugee women with limited English-language skills and unique barriers to working outside of the home, with health education, although that was important.
"The ladies were asked to take leadership roles," she explained, serving as hostesses, table masters, and greeters during the event. Having this opportunity "helped them with their people skills," important for seeking and gaining permanent employment down the road.
"Anytime the ladies have an opportunity to grow in their empowerment is helping them reach program goals," Roy added.
Notwithstanding a torrential downpour starting before and lasting throughout the fair, attendance was better than expected, said Hayes. "We were actually happy with the turnout, considering it was the first time we tried it and the weather was so bad."