Your sweet tooth’s new best friend

Posted in Medill News Service, Video on July 22nd, 2010 by Lisa Owad – Be the first to comment

By Lisa Owad
May 12, 2010
Medill News Service

Cupcakes better watch out. Chicagoans with sweet tooths are chasing after a new confection. Lisa Owad tells us about this tasty trend.

See this video at the Medill News Service

One city, one flower

Posted in Medill News Service, Video on July 22nd, 2010 by Lisa Owad – Be the first to comment

By Lisa Owad
May 5, 2010
Medill News Service

A local nonprofit is bringing communities together through their local gardens. Lisa Owad tells us why you might soon see a certain purple flower blooming all over the city.

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Chicago comic artist finds success on the Internet

Posted in Medill News Service, Video on July 22nd, 2010 by Lisa Owad – Be the first to comment

By Lisa Owad
April 28, 2010
Medill News Service

The internet is hitting the publishing world hard. But one Chicago artist is showing how the web has actually helped her work. Lisa Owad takes us to meet a comic artist who is drawing on the web for a bigger audience.

See this video at the Medill News Service

Taking a first run at the marathon

Posted in Medill News Service, Video on July 22nd, 2010 by Lisa Owad – Be the first to comment

By Lisa Owad
April 23, 2010
Medill News Service

More than ever before Chicagoans are putting on their running shoes to train for a race. Lisa Owad gets us in step with this rising trend.

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Earth Day still relevant after 40 years

Posted in Medill News Service, Video on July 22nd, 2010 by Lisa Owad – Be the first to comment

By Lisa Owad
April 22, 2010
Medill News Service

Earth day is back. Mayor Daley and environmental groups hope to make Chicago the greenest city in America.

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Chicago residents speak and the government listens

Posted in Medill News Service, Video on July 22nd, 2010 by Lisa Owad – Be the first to comment

By Lisa Owad
April 15, 2010
Medill News Service

Residents of Chicago’s 49th Ward are coming together to improve their community. Lisa Owad tells us how a special election may make a big difference in their lives.

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Meet the Oscars

Posted in Video on July 19th, 2010 by Lisa Owad – Be the first to comment

By Lisa Owad
March 14, 2010

If you’ve been practicing your Oscar’s acceptance speech, you may want to check out this Academy Awards exhibit in downtown Chicago. Lisa Owad tells us how we can get our hands on an Oscar, without making a trip to Hollywood.

How do you talk to the doctor when you don’t know the words?

Posted in Medill News Service, Print on July 19th, 2010 by Lisa Owad – Be the first to comment

Lisa Owad/Medill

By Lisa Owad
March 11, 2010
Medill News Service

Every day thousands of Chicagoans visit a doctor – but can’t explain what’s wrong.

It’s not because they don’t know their symptoms, they just don’t speak the same language.

Radhika Sharma Gordon deals with this constantly as coordinator for a health organization in one of the most diverse areas in the country, Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood.

“One problem [we face] is the language gap in health communications,” said Gordon, the coordinator of Healthy Albany Park, a community coalition of health care workers. “We’ve steadily had an increasing Spanish-speaking population, but we need free or low-cost translation into Arabic for the sizable Arabic-speaking community here.”

Lisa Owad/Medill

With dozens of languages spoken in Chicago, health care organizations can find it challenging to meet all of their patients’ needs.

Speaking their language

Small, community-based organizations like Healthy Albany Park struggle to find funding for translation services and often have to rely on the language skills of their staff.

“We’re forced to be very creative, because we get so little money,” Gordon said. “Unfortunately, people who are bilingual often have this foisted on them as another job duty. You don’t want to overburden any bilingual colleague.”

Lisa Owad/Medill

Organizations that are larger and better-funded have more options.

Cook County’s Community and Economic Development Association has a Women, Infants and Children Program office in Albany Park. WIC is a nonprofit, national organization funded by the United States Department of Agriculture that focuses on nutrition counseling and services for moms and kids.

“We run the largest WIC program in Illinois,” said Sarah Sullivan, program coordinator. “Monthly we serve over 46,000 clients in Cook County.”

Lisa Owad/Medill

With federal funding and national support, the WIC offices find it easier to fulfill their clients’ translation and interpretation needs.

“I think we do a very good job meeting the language need within [Albany Park],” Sullivan said. “We have four languages that are spoken on site, full time: Arabic, Hindi, Spanish and English. All of our clerks that are hired speak another language. That is part of the job requirement.”

With so many different languages spoken in Chicago, it’s impossible to represent every language with an on-site interpreter. Using outside agencies to assist with translation and interpretation is a necessity.

“We use AT&T’s Language Line,” Sullivan said. “We have a standing contract with them, so translation help is just a phone call away. We also partner with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights for translation help as needed.”

Video or phone interpreter services are commonly used by hospitals to communicate with non-English speaking patients.

“We have access to 170 languages through a combination of staff interpreters, agency interpreters, phone interpreters and video interpreters,” said Omar Torres-Knight, manager of interpreting services at Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital.

However, speaking to an interpreter over a phone or video connection can have its limitations.

“Usually in person is much better,” said Kyung Yu, a Korean interpreter at Swedish Covenant Hospital. “A lot of times our patients are seniors, and a lot of them have hearing problems. And having a rapport with patients is very helpful.”

Swedish Covenant Hospital serves many patients from the diverse Albany Park area.

“The staff has interpreters in house for a few different languages: Korean, Spanish and Russian,” Yu said. “We also use Language Line for other languages.”

When a patient can’t speak English, one of the interpreters is summoned by pager or cell phone. Sometimes their services aren’t even necessary, one of the advantages of working in a diverse community.

“We have many staff [members] that speak other languages,” Yu said. “It depends though, because their primary job isn’t interpretation.”

Immigration trends

Events on the other side of the world can affect translation needs in Chicago. For example, unrest in the Middle East is driving a need for Arabic language services.

“The reality is that anything that’s going on in the world, we pick up in Cook County,” said Magali Rodriguez, the director of interpreter services at the Circuit Court of Cook County.

The number of Arabic speakers in Illinois increased 12.9 percent between 2000 and 2005, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Between 1990 and 2000, the nation’s Arab population increased by nearly 40 percent.

“We have an Arabic population that seems to be growing,” said Yu. “We get requests often for that language [at Swedish Covenant Hospital].”

When immigration organizations foresee a change in the incoming population, news travels to health organizations, so they can prepare to meet the changing needs.

“In 2008, our local refugee settlement program, World Relief, received word to expect more Iraqi refugees,” Gordon said.

“[WIC has] been at Albany Park for 16 years, and I think we’ve seen some of those trends, and we’ve met them very well,” Sullivan said. “We just purchased an Arabic keyboard a few years ago.”

Effective health care communication

A 2002 Institute of Medicine study revealed that “racial and ethnic minorities tend to receive a lower quality of healthcare than non-minorities.” A major factor in this disparity is the patient’s ability to communicate with their doctor.

And the difficulty doesn’t end with the doctor-patient relationship. Hospitals and clinics might have to provide translation for consent forms, educational materials and medication information, according to “One Size Does Not Fit All,” a study by The Joint Commission, an organization that helps facilitate health care communication between providers and patients.

The often immediate nature of health issues can make the need critical. While court dates are usually scheduled ahead of time, health care, by nature, is often unexpected.

“In the health care system it’s really a greater challenge,” Rodriguez said “because we get sick without prior notice.”

However, health organizations like Albany Park find themselves doing the best they can with what they have in order to serve their clients.

“If we can get English, Spanish and Arabic [translation], then we can cover most of the parents [in the area],” said Gordon.

A parallel system: Interpreting in the judicial system
In 2006, interpreters were used 120, 412 times in Circuit Court of Cook County proceedings.

“Interpreters are requested by the court or a court order,” said Magali Rodriguez, director of interpreter services in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Spanish, Polish and sign language interpreters are the most frequently requested, but the court is prepared to provide for everyone.

“We have three tiers of staff,” Rodriguez said. “We have full-time staff in the most often used languages: Spanish, Polish and sign language. We have a second tier that is called ‘session employees.’ They are reimbursed by how many sessions they work. We also have a variety of what we refer to as ‘exotic languages.’ So they are just languages of lesser use.”

However, in a diverse city like Chicago, Rodriguez finds that more help is needed.

“We contract out with a language services provider,” she said. “Our full-time interpreters work every single day and the others are as needed. The contract agency is for when we can’t provide a language.”

Time is the major difference between interpreter services in health care and the courts.

“If there is an impromptu need, the court will call our office,” Rodriguez said. “We welcome the call from any language, even though we normally request 48 hours in advance to request an interpreter.”

However, the two systems aren’t completely unrelated.

“Some medical interpreters do in fact come work for us,” Rodriguez said. “They are a plus because some of our cases use that specialized terminology. So we have very good luck when they have that experience.”

See this article at the Medill News Service

Taking the stairs for a good cause

Posted in Video on July 19th, 2010 by Lisa Owad – Be the first to comment

By Lisa Owad
March 6, 2010

Chicagoans raced to the roof of one of the city’s tallest buildings, raising money for the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.

Mobile unit takes kidney care to people who need it most

Posted in Medill News Service, Print on July 19th, 2010 by Lisa Owad – Be the first to comment

The Kidneymobile travels through Illinois to prevent chronic kidney disease. (Courtesy of the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois.)

By Lisa Owad
March 10, 2010
Medill News Service

Not to be confused with the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, the Kidneymobile is a mobile health care unit that offers free health screenings and education in the hopes of preventing chronic kidney disease.

The van paid a visit to Chicago Tuesday in preparation for Thursday’s World Kidney Day. Kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mobile health care units that provide screenings for vision or blood pressure may be more common, but the Kidneymobile offers a comprehensive approach to preventing kidney disease. Instead of a single screening or immunization injection, patients receive a battery of basic tests that offer a broader view of their health, all for free.

“Our usual screening consists of blood draw, urinalysis — looking for microscopic protein and blood in the urine — blood sugar, body mass index, waist circumference and blood pressure,” said Nancy Lepain, a nurse practitioner who travels with the van. “I think what we do is incredibly comprehensive, and it’s totally free.”

At least 26 million adults have chronic kidney disease, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Since early stages of the disease have no symptoms, many more are at risk.

“Untreated high blood pressure and poorly controlled diabetes are the two major causes of kidney disease,” Lepain said. “Both of those diseases are easily treatable with the right medication. If we can get people with high blood pressure and diabetes well cared for, we can certainly decrease the number of people with chronic kidney disease.”

When a patient receives an abnormal test result at the screening, they are able to review the result with the on-site nurse practitioner the same day. Kidneymobile volunteers follow up later to make sure the patient is receiving care.

“We follow up with everyone that tests abnormal,” said Nicole Sisen, community programs manager at the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois. “They get a phone call four to six weeks after the screening. If they have a doctor, we ask that they make an appointment. And then we follow up again.”

Patients who don’t have insurance or a regular doctor receive referrals to places where they can get care.

Unfortunately, most patients that visit the Kidneymobile find themselves in need of further care.

“About 77 percent of the people that we screen have at least one abnormal value,” Lepain said. “And that’s excluding obesity. It’s been very few screenings that we’ve done where we haven’t found at least one person with undiagnosed diabetes. The numbers are very telling.”

The National Kidney Foundation of Illinois, which introduced the Kidneymobile in 2005, partners with community organizations to spread news of their visits. Thousands of people throughout Illinois have taken advantage of the Kidneymobile’s services.

“We usually have a great turnout for the screenings,” Lepain said. “I would say we average 75 to 100 people [each screening].”

“We take great pride in it,” Sisen said. “It’s the only traveling educational unit for kidney disease in the nation.”

While anyone is welcome at the free screenings, the National Kidney Foundation tries to reach those who are most in need.

“We try to locate our screening in areas that have large minority populations,” Lepain said. “African-Americans and Latinos are at much higher risk for developing kidney disease based on the incidence of diabetes and hypertension.”

For those who don’t have health insurance or can’t afford to visit a doctor, the Kidneymobile offers a chance to stay on top of their health. Chicago resident Juan Ramirez, 42, attended a Kidneymobile screening Tuesday to check up on his blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

“I have health insurance,” Ramirez said, “but they raised it so high. I have to pay a $700 or $800 deductible the first time I use it. For me it’s hard, because I just make minimum wage. Every time I see an opportunity like this, I prefer to take advantage of it.”

The Kidneymobile isn’t the only mobile health care unit making the rounds in Chicago. The University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital has a Pediatric Mobile Medical Unit and the Mobile C.A.R.E. Foundation operates Asthma Vans throughout the city. Norwegian American Hospital’s Care-A-Van brings pediatric care to the children of Humboldt Park.

Related Links:
Learn more about the Kidneymobile and how to request a visit
The Kidneymobile’s 2010 schedule
Care-A-Van takes free health care to the streets

See this article at the Medill News Service