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.

The EthnoMed 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.

Purpose

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 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.

Related Programs and Projects

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.

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.

Student Projects

UW students have the opportunity to engage in short-term projects that explore health and culture-related issues for publication on the EthnoMed website. Students collaborate with EthnoMed staff, community members, medical interpreters, caseworker/cultural mediators and/or care providers, collecting information through research, interviews and focus groups. Projects typically culminate in an article, health education resource, and/or multimedia content to be published on the EthnoMed website.