Two clinics pilot Somali cultural training for staff

“I learned the word ‘alosha,’” explains Aner, a pediatrician at Fairview Clinics – Bloomington, Oxboro.

“It means ‘stomach.’ I’d say ‘I’m going to check your alosha and, suddenly, I would see smiles from the whole family, more trust. I decided I better learn more words.”

He approached clinic colleagues and leadership about bringing more cultural training to employees to provide better experience and treatment for their diverse patient population.

The result: Two clinics are offering six sessions of cultural and language training, and tracking the results. The classes started in February.

Fairview Clinics – Bloomington, Oxboro has 500 patients who speak Somali, and Fairview Clinics – Bloomington-Lake, Minneapolis has 300, so that’s where they decided to start.

Different words, different ideas

The classes cover everything from learning a few basic words to what health care is like in Somalia to explaining why parents might have different ideas about healthy weights for their children.

culturalclass2“For the concept of weight, for example, we take leanness as a sign of health,” says Dr. Vlodaver. “But, in other countries, it may be a sign of sickness. Some people see heaviness in children as a sign of health.”



The next step in the pilot is to see whether the efforts make a difference in the clinics’ connections with their Somali patients. Initial results expected this summer.

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