CHICAGO, IL (August 4, 2016) — Swedish Covenant Hospital (SCH) is meeting the challenges of serving a neighborhood that is among the most diverse in the country thanks to a large number of employees who are bilingual and a commitment to work with community groups in ways that can serve as a model for local churches.
Chicago’s 60625 zip code, where the hospital is situated, has long been considered among the nation’s most multicultural in the country. People arrive daily from around the world to take up temporary or permanent residence. It has one of the highest percentages of foreign-born residents among Chicago neighborhoods.
They bring with them dozens of different languages but also cultural differences about seeking health care as well as how they receive it. That presents a lot of challenges at the individual and group levels.
Swedish has two full-time employees who serve as interpreters to the Hispanic and Korean populations—the largest ethnic groups in the area—and they keep busy, said Kyung Yu, a Korean translator. But the hospital also can draw on employees to help with translation. Some 40 languages are spoken among them. Swedish contracts with agencies that can translate for the hearing impaired.
One of the hospital’s strengths is that the staff reflects the population, said Jenise Celestin, the hospital’s director of community relations. Fifty percent of SCH’s employees live within the five-mile radius the hospital seeks to serve, Celestin said
The hospital also uses a third-party service that enables translation for up to 150 languages. Medical personnel and patients can talk by phone to the service’s employees who translate the conversation.
On a broader scale, the hospital works with local cultural organizations to reach out to the community and engage in two-way dialogue, Celestin said. That begins with SCH listening.
The Women’s Health Center, which opened in 2014, was built with a lot of input from local residents and learning different cultures, Celestin said. The women’s center normally does not allow men in the facility, but created a separate entrance for cultures in which men make all the medical decisions for the family, including their wives.
Every three years, SCH conducts a “community needs assessment” to address the most pressing health issues. The hospital brings together representatives of the cultural organizations to hear from them as part of the assessment and later meets with them again to share the results and further decide what are the most important needs.
Those needs are addressed in cooperation with the local groups, Celestin said. The organizations often can help share information with residents and arrange for various presentations by hospital staff on numerous health topics. For example, the hospital worked with the Indo-American Center to present a presentation in Hindi on diabetes, which the Asian Indian population is especially vulnerable to for various reasons.
Swedish has worked with entities such as the Vietnamese Association of Illinois and the Ecuadorian consulate to offer mammograms. Specific days are set aside during which the hospital provides women with transportation from a local community center to receive mammograms at the hospital. Women who do not have insurance are connected with a grant program. It has sponsored Korean health fairs, during which Korean nurses have volunteered to do health screenings for several hundred people.
Preventative care can greatly improve general health and reduce mortality, but many immigrants come from cultures where that was not available or a value, Celestin said. Working with community groups helps explain the necessity as well as locate pockets of people that otherwise SCH would be unaware of, including people who are new immigrants, who are under-insured or have no insurance.
Earlier this year, SCH launched its “community ambassador program,” a fitting name for the multinational service area. Twenty employees make up an initial group of volunteers who live within the five-mile radius of the hospital.
“We’ve provided them with additional information and resources about key offerings we offer that even people who have lived in this community might not be aware of, such as our immediate care center or our women’s health outreach,” Celestin said. “Then when those individuals are attending their church group, or child’s school, or garden club, they’ll go with another hat they’re wearing in which they feel comfortable talking about what we are doing. They might learn about something else that is happening in the community that they can bring back to us and let us know about it.”
The hospital has been an anchor in the every-changing community for more than 100 years, Celestin said, adding, “We are committed to continually learning more about the people who live here.”
For more information about Swedish Covenant Hospital, visit SwedishCovenant.org.