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About EthnoMed


EthnoMed is Harborview Medical Center's ethnic medicine website containing medical and cultural information about immigrant and refugee groups. Information is specific to groups in the Seattle area, but much of the cultural and health information is of interest and applicable in other geographic areas. EthnoMed is a joint program of the University of Washington Health Sciences Libraries and Harborview Medical Center's Interpreter Services Department/Community House Calls Program (ISD/CHC).  EthnoMed is directed by clinical faculty in the Department of General Internal Medicine's Refugee and Immigrant Health Promotion Program at Harborview, and maintains roots in the Pediatrics Department and strong connections in the International Medicine Clinic.  The EthnoMed team works with caseworker cultural mediators, medical interpreters, health care providers and ethnic community leaders who serve as authors and advisers of the web content.


In 1994, EthnoMed grew out of another hospital program, Community House Calls, which was successfully bridging cultural and language barriers during medical visits, through interpretation, cultural mediation and advocacy with immigrant patients, families and communities. The website was created to reflect and support that experience, and continues to focus on communities served by Community House Calls: Cambodian, Ethiopian, Hispanic, Oromo, Somali, Tigrean and Vietnamese.  Other ethnic groups, such as Chinese, Karen and Hmong are being included as materials are written. The founders of EthnoMed looked to the Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) and Murdock's Outline of Cultural Materials as a framework for organizing information on EthnoMed.


The objective of the website is to make information about culture, language, health, illness and community resources directly accessible to health care providers who see patients from different ethnic groups. EthnoMed was designed to be used in clinics by care providers in the few minutes before seeing a patient in clinic. For instance, before seeing a Cambodian patient with asthma, a provider might access the website to learn how the concept of asthma is translated and about common cultural and interpretive issues in the Cambodian community that might complicate asthma management. A practitioner could also download a patient education pamphlet in Khmer (Cambodian language) to give to the patient.  EthnoMed is available wherever the Internet is accessible. The website reaches more than 620,000 visitors each year, comprising a local, national and international audience of health care providers, communities, educators and students.

EthnoMed is grounded in real relationships built between Harborview Medical Center and a small sample of refugee and immigrant groups it serves in Seattle.  Health care providers and members of local ethnic communities review content for clinical accuracy and cultural relevance.  Readers are encouraged to contact us with corrections, suggestions and questions.

EthnoMed is intended to be a community voice in the clinic, so user feedback is essential.  Ethnic organizations are urged to tell us about ongoing activities and resources in order that they may be added to our local resource information. As providers learn from their patients about traditional treatments, cultural perspectives or resources, we urge them to share this information with us. EthnoMed assumes that culture is dynamic; particularly immigrant cultures.  For this reason, an interactive electronic medium is particularly well suited to capture and express changing cultural nuances. As immigrant groups acculturate and communities react to the change in unique directions regionally, EthnoMed hopes to reflect this pattern of change. We assume that as groups acculturate, traditional concepts will be modified and so we solicit periodic review and feedback from community leaders about changing health concepts in their communities. We welcome comments and suggestions from members of these ethnic groups around the world.

General caveat

It is important to remember that simply because a person is identified as a member of a particular ethnic group or religion does not necessarily mean that the person or the person's family has the set of beliefs that may be associated with the ethnicity or religion. An assessment should be made of how acculturated a person and their family are, their language skills, and whether an interpreter is needed. Be aware of some of the overall cultural values of the community and then explore the pertinent themes as they relate to providing health care for individual patients. Remember there is great diversity within community. Experiences will vary greatly depending, for example, on whether people lived in rural or urban communities in their countries of origin, how long they have been in the United States, immigration process, former occupations and levels of education.  Remember that patients are individuals and are not defined by their cultural group.

For more information about EthnoMed web resource, see Ellen Howard's presentation: EthnoMed: Web Based Health-Related Information for Targeted Refugees/Immigrant Groups in King County and Their Providers


The EthnoMed team currently consists of: Dr. Carey Jackson, Internal Medicine, International Medicine; Ann Marchand, Program Support Supervisor; Christine Wilson Owens, Program Supervisor; and Anna Cowan, Program Coordinator, Contribution Pathways.  EthnoMed receives technical support from Adam Garrett and Kerry Kirk at UW Health Sciences Libraries where EthnoMed's web server is maintained.  Dr. Tao Kwan-Gett and Dr. Elinor Graham, along with Carey Jackson, Ellen Howard and Ann Marchand were instrumental in starting the website. Many other people are recognized as being active in developing the resource.  See: EthnoMed Contributors.  2009-2012 the EthnoMed program formed an Advisory Board with members from senior leadership positions in a number of disciplines such as public health, global medicine, immigrant and refugee health, clinical medicine, education, and library science.  The board was established to help guide the long term direction and planning of the  program, and to bring ideas and strategic connections to the program and team, especially providing advice on funding streams, priority areas of expansion, partnerships, integration of key academic and service disciplines, service opportunities and strategic priorities. See: EthnoMed Advisory Board for a list of board members. Since 2013, board members have served in a less formal capacity as advisers to the program; in lieu of meetings, individuals periodically draw on their specific areas of expertise in providing feedback to EthnoMed about projects and new directions, sending students through the Pathways program, and sharing news of EthnoMed’s work and opportunities for funding. 


Funding for staff and projects has come mainly from grants.  Initial funding was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation through their joint initiative, "Opening Doors: A Program to Reduce Sociocultural Barriers to Health Care". Partial support has been provided through grants from diverse sources, including the UW Libraries Allen Endowment for Programs, the National Network of Libraries of Medicine and private foundations like Firland and Casey Families. See detailed credits and acknowledgements for individual content selections throughout the website, or see our more complete list of funders who have supported the EthnoMed website over the years. 

In 2008/2009 funding is provided by several sources - Harborview Medical Center, the National Library of Medicine (NLM), the Lance Armstrong Foundation, and the Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research and Training.  The "EthnoMed Knowledge Management Grant" (2006-2009), an NIH/NLM Translational Informatics Grant, has enabled the development and implementation of a new content management system and updated design for the website, utilizing the open source software Plone.  This new system improves search capacity, eases the process for contributing and editing content, and shares EthnoMed content with another website Refugee Health Information Network (RHIN).

Disclaimer and Copyright

EthnoMed is designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services. Any medical or other decisions should be made in consultation with your doctors. Harborview Medical Center and the University of Washington Health Sciences Library will not be liable for any complication, injuries or other medical accidents arising from or in connection with the use of or reliance upon any information in the web.

EthnoMed operates under the Creative Commons License: Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States

You are free to copy, distribute, display this work under the following conditions:

  • Attribution:  You must attribute the work to EthnoMed, and author or licensor.
  • Noncommercial:  You may not use this work for commercial or for-profit purposes
  • Alterations:  You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.

For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license of this work. Any of these conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder.   Your fair use and other rights are in no way affected by the above.

Contributor Guide

Information about how to get involved, contributing articles or other materials to EthnoMed.  Authors and reviewers with passwords can login here.  Read more...

Related Programs and Projects

Information about programs and projects related to the development of EthnoMed at the University of Washington and Harborview Medical Center.

Contribution Pathways Project

A pilot project engaging UW students in short-term, coordinated collaborations with community members and care providers to explore health and culture-related issues for publication on the EthnoMed website.  Student authors range from undergraduates to medical professionals seeking graduate degrees.  Read more...

Community House Calls Program

Community House Calls (CHC) is a program of Harborview Medical Center’s (HMC) Interpreter Services.  Community House Calls serves limited English proficient patients, families and communities who receive health care at HMC.  Bilingual/bicultural caseworker cultural mediators provide same language services for patients facing complex medical and social circumstances and serve as liaisons to their respective communities. Read more...

Interpreter Services Department

Harborview Medical Center serves a culturally and linguistically diverse population in the King County area. The role of the Interpreter Services Department is to ensure that these patients receive equitable access to the medical services offered there at any given time by providing language and communication support.  Read more...


EthnoMed publishes a newsletter periodically with featured content timely for health care providers.  These can be accessed at: Newsletter Editions


EthnoMed’s logo has undergone a transformation. 

Logo 1994-2009: old logo

New Logo:New Logo

Designed by Seattle graphic arts firm Ray Braun Design EthnoMed's new logo has won two advertising design awards: 

  • Merit Recognition in the logo/letterhead design category from The Twenty Sixth Annual Healthcare Marketing Advertising Awards Competition.

  • Gold Recognition in the logo/letterhead design category, healthcare services group, from The Sixth Annual Service Industry Advertising Awards.