from Will Story
Learn more about the origin of the Protecting Our
Community video series from Alka Walter
Learn more about the impact of the Protecting Our
Community video series from Bijou Maliabo
The coronavirus pandemic dominates the news these days, and for good reason. Government and public health officials are holding press briefings as well as pushing out information via media outlets and social media channels to educate the public about the pandemic. But many of these sources of information are out of reach for members of refugee and immigrant communities for whom English is limited.
Enter the Congolese Health Partnership (CHP). According to Will Story, CHP vice-chair and assistant professor in the UI College of Public Health, the CHP started about three years ago as a partnership between the UI College of Public Health, UI Hospitals & Clinics, and leaders in the Congolese community. “There was a need to both provide better access to culturally- and linguistically-appropriate healthcare services in our community, but there was also a need to build trust between our providers and our community,” says Story. Alka Walter, current CHP co-chair and clinical assistant professor in the UI Carver College of Medicine, added, “It’s a forum where we all come together to learn about each other—for our Congolese community members to learn what happens at the hospital, and for the providers to understand the traditions of the Congolese community.”
Until recently, the primary area of focus for the CHP was maternal and child health, but that changed with the entry of the coronavirus pandemic. CHP members observed misinformation within the refugee and immigrant community about the coronavirus, compounded by confusion from many community members due to limited English language skills. The CHP group quickly pivoted to create a video series called Protecting Our Community to provide accessible information about the coronavirus, how to prevent coronavirus, and how to seek care for coronavirus in several different languages. “We thought we could do videos in the different languages spoken in the Congolese community—that is, French, Lingala, and Swahili,” says Peter Nkumu, CHP member. “We want to make sure people in the Congolese community are aware of what is going on with COVID-19, and think it makes sense for people to hear this information from people in their own language. There is a lot of information in the media about the coronavirus, but it’s in English. Not many people in the Congolese community speak English.”
“This disease is hitting people of color disproportionately, so that is reason alone to reach out to the immigrant community to get the word out that they need to pay attention to this and make sure they are following guidelines to stay healthy.”
The group didn’t stop there. “We quickly realized the opportunity to impact refugee and immigrant populations from other areas of the world, so we took recommendations from our community and service agencies as to the other languages they would like to see,” says Story. As a result, they plan to produce additional videos for the Protecting Our Community series in Arabic, Spanish, and Kinyarwanda.
Emphasizing the importance of the video series, Nkumu reflected, “This disease is hitting people of color disproportionately, so that is reason alone to reach out to the immigrant community to get the word out that they need to pay attention to this and make sure they are following guidelines to stay healthy.” According to Bijou Maliabo, CHP co-chair, “The videos are being shared through social media, including Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, and on our YouTube channel. I’ve seen that people are engaging with the videos, and have had comments from people in the community that they appreciated the videos.”