Connecting with 10 Somali Elders About Chronic Disease Management

Funded by Greater Twin Cities United Way, WellShare has partnered for three years with the Smiley’s Family Medicine Clinic to integrate a CHW into their care team. The WellShare CHW works closely with patients and staff to offer patient navigation and care coordination to Somali-speaking patients identified by various members of the clinical team. Over the past three years, the WellShare CHW has connected Smiley’s Somali patients to additional referral services including dental and pharmacy, helped patients navigate complex diagnoses, interpret lab results alongside providers, and build confidence in their ability to do such things as schedule appointments. As a residency teaching clinic, the Smiley’s Clinic setting means that our presence helps future family physicians to learn about culturally-competent care.

Since the onset of this program, the care team has emphasized a need for specific interventions targeting chronic disease and prevention with high risk groups. As part of this initiative, WellShare hosts ongoing classes with Somali patients referred by clinicians, self-advocates, and the CHW. In the most recent installment of patient education, More than 10 participants joined the 7 week class to connect with others with the same health diagnosis, learned about health care navigation, and developed their individual action plans toward healthier living.

A former participant even visited a couple of the classes to connect with current participants and express how much she enjoyed attending the classes over the summer. Her presence encouraged facilitators and participants to get to know one another and socialize between sessions. Facilitator, Asha Mohamed shared, “The thing that I thought went very well was the feeling of being one with our participants as we often laughed and joked amongst each other.” Generous sponsorship in the form of grocery gift cards from local grocers including the nearby CUB foods, the Seward Coop and Target allowed participants the opportunity to implement healthy food selection skills from the class in their weekly shopping.

When asked about the impact of this class on their health, one participant was grateful for the opportunity to connect with others who share a diabetes diagnosis and discuss the big impact of small adjustments in their daily lifestyle. Facilitator, Abdirahman Mahamud shared, “It looks like a little thing, but to an elderly person it is a big change…[Helping participants internalize that] you don’t have to memorize everything in the manual, but focusing on 2-3 things helps manage your condition. Seeing them realize that and take it to heart is very encouraging.” Similarly, a clinical interpreter who interacts with many of the participants shared that the patients who attend seem more engaged and comfortable in their ability to manage health. Hosting the class at the clinic was confusing to patients at first but has helped them feel more comfortable at the clinic and welcomed in a clinical setting that can at times feel intimidating. As a result, they are more confident when they have appointments.



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