Our Stories, Our Health
In Philadelphia, Laotian and Vietnamese elders learned interviewing techniques and camera skills as part of a video project that aimed to increase access to health care for elderly members of the South East Asian community. The project provided opportunities for staff members and volunteers of the immigrant service organization to engage with experts from academic institutions and public media outlets to experience a different dimension of open access media, public health and social service work. These groups collaborated to:
- broadcast culturally appropriate health videos on public television and stream them online,
- screen Laotian- and Vietnamese-language videos on hypertension and patient provider communications at South East Asian community centers, and
- create bridges between elders and youth, Laotians and Vietnamese.
Project Snapshot: Jook Breakfast Builds Community
Every Tuesday morning, South East Asian elders gather at the SEAMAAC office for a nutritious breakfast of chicken soup known as ‘Jook’. SEAMAAC’s Executive Director taught the healthful traditional recipe to outreach staff member Hanna Do, who marinates the chicken overnight at home. In the Our Stories, Our Health blog, she writes,
"Mr. Thoai said ‘If you cook like you are cooking for your own parents then it will always be good.’ I agree with him. After we serve Jook, we also provide social services and that is why the elders are really happy and appreciate coming to here. The more they love the program, the more they help us recruit other elders to come. Currently we have about 140 Vietnamese and 70 Lao elders participating in the breakfast. They’ve begun to sit together and they are learning to communicate with each other as well.
The greatest challenge and most rewarding experience for me is building the trust with the elders, and serving them with patience and respect. When helping them and working with them, I know I must always be aware of their culture, their habits, and their traditions to understand what they need and why.”
South East Asian elders interviewed each other on camera about their experiences navigating the US health care system. These community-produced Laotian- and Vietnamese-language videos were screened as part of workshops that facilitated discussion of hypertension and patient-provider communications. The public television interstitials, produced in English by WHYY, helped to educate the broader community about these issues. Sharing stories with each other and with the wider community helped to legitimize the experiences of these immigrant elders.
The project also provided leadership opportunities for high school and college interns. Duong Ly recently immigrated to the US. As part of a high school summer program, he honed his public speaking skills by assisting with community workshops. Duong has been accepted to the University of Pennsylvania where he has been nominated for admission into Penn’s Civic Scholars program.
Navigating culture, language and literacy differences can be a challenge. From the perspective of an immigrant service organization, the key to navigating differences is to involve staff members who bring to the project a high degree of cultural capacity and linguistic expertise as well as many years of experience working with the project community. For the public media partner, the challenge of working with in-language video and then translating and editing the video proved much more difficult than anticipated. Yet the guidance provided by SEAMAAC staff members and translation services provided by student interns resulted in a set of dynamic videos that represented the experience of the community in a concise but powerful way.
Set appropriate expectations for elders learning new media skills. While there was a fair degree of difficulty in working with older populations and technology, it was possible to teach production techniques such as interviewing and basic camera skills. Teaching participants to edit video and complete production on their own was not possible.
Multi-purpose educational materials can be used in other communities. The project created a series of health workshops, using in-language community videos, to promote greater awareness of hypertension and patient-provider communication for Vietnamese and Laotian communities. Both the DVDs and the workshop curriculum are products that can be used by South East Asian community groups anywhere in the US. After viewing the Our Stories videos online at newroutes.org, staff from the HOPE clinic in Houston, Texas contacted SEAMAAC to request a DVD. They plan to display the culturally appropriate health videos in their waiting room.
Health media projects can build bridges between youth and elders. This project needed the support of youth to effectively connect with the elders in their community. These young people are often the health navigators in their families. Engaging them established an opportunity to share information and promote the workshops. Bringing youth and elders together injected new energy into the project. For example, interviews conducted by SEAMAAC staff and Elder Council members were translated by student interns from U Penn.
Watch and Listen
New Research & Recommendations
This report (PDF 3.8MB) offers guidance for community organizations and those who fund social change in how best to harness the power of local media-making for community health improvement. Spanish-language version is now available. Una versión en español de este informe esta en la web.