Bilingual diabetic educators break down barriers to better health

May 02, 2022 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

When facing a health issue, many of us find ourselves in unfamiliar territory, trying to process medical information that is often difficult to understand. Now imagine trying to navigate a health issue in a language that’s not your own.

Members of our community who don’t speak English must face this reality every day and their health may suffer because of it. We want to remove these types of barriers to better health.

NorthShore – Edward-Elmhurst Health is collecting information about our patients that we can turn into insights to address any health disparities in our community. We created a Health Equity Dashboard, which includes patient information by race, gender at birth, ethnicity, age, zip code and language.

“I’m really excited about the Health Equity Dashboard because it allows us to understand the diversity of our patient population and determine whether any disparities exist,” says Annette Kenney, System Chief Strategy Officer at NorthShore – Edward-Elmhurst Health. In the process, we learned something about our diabetes patient population.

“Early on, when we looked at the data, we saw that the rate of diabetes among Hispanic and African American populations was much higher than our general patient population. That prompted us to establish a pilot program where we embedded Spanish-speaking diabetes educators and navigators into primary care offices in the Addison community,” says Kenney.

Our bilingual diabetic educators and diabetic navigators assist patients through their disease course.

“We really want them to have a full understanding of the disease because there’s so much work to be done at home. We want them to feel comfortable to ask every question that comes to mind,” says Susan Hudec, M.D., diabetes specialist at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Rana Clarizio, BSN, RN, MSN, CDCES, diabetes educator at Edward-Elmhurst Health, says that being able to communicate with patients in their own language builds trust: “They automatically relax. And when you are more relaxed, you are much more able to absorb the information that’s given to you,” she says.

NorthShore – Edward-Elmhurst Health is committed to community-connected care that meets the needs of every patient. This program is just the beginning. Our community is complex and diverse, with a range of health needs across all socioeconomic groups, races and ethnicities. We continue to look for new ways to address healthcare disparities and achieve health equity in our community.

“It’s really gratifying to be able to take data and turning into insights that really help people. If we are successful in this, we’ll see lower rates of hospitalizations, lower rates of emergency room utilization, and better outcomes for all diabetic patients, regardless of race, ethnicity and geography,” says Kenney.

Watch the video to learn more.

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