Emory Report
July 7, 2008
Volume 60, Number 34



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July 7, 2008
HEARMe radio partnership speaks to refugee health

By carol clark

When Hussien Mohamed’s 82-year-old mother developed a cataract, he took her to an Atlanta physician for treatment. But she wouldn’t go through with it. “She said, ‘No, no, no, no! He’s not going to touch my eyeball. I will die with my original eye,’” Mohamed recalls. “I’ve asked every friend and family member to talk to her, and she still refuses.”

Mohamed and his mother came to the United States as refugees from Somalia. In 1998, he founded Sagal Radio Services in the Clarkston area, to serve the growing community of East Africans in metro Atlanta. The station, a partner of Emory’s Office of University- Community Partnerships, broadcasts every weekend on AM 1420 in English, as well as Somali, Swahili and Amharic.

Mohamed hopes that a new radio program devoted to health, a collaboration of Sagal Radio and the OUCP, will help his mother and some of the other 17,000 East Africans in Georgia to overcome language and cultural barriers to keep improving their quality of life.

The program, called HEARMe, or Health Education via Airwaves for Refugees, is funded by a grant from the Benton Foundation, as part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s New Routes to Community Health philanthropic portfolio.

“A lot of East African refugees don’t know about preventative health. The only time they take care of themselves is when they are sick and have to go to the hospital,” says Mohamed, who is a program coordinator for OUCP, in addition to serving as director of Sagal Radio and holding a “day job” as a translator and case worker for World Relief.

“The elders, especially, don’t have much trust in doctors,” he adds. The best way to reach them, he says, is by getting local medical and religious leaders who speak their languages on the air, along with people who have successfully undergone health treatments, and can share their stories.

“You don’t need a passport to do global health – the global community is right here in Atlanta,” says Sam Marie Engle, senior associate director of OUCP, explaining the rationale behind HEARMe.

Sagal Radio has provided Emory students and faculty ways to serve the local refugee community, Engle says. HEARMe will offer another platform to expand that involvement – particularly for the schools of nursing and public health and the journalism department.

The full line-up of weekend HEARMe programming, set to debut in August, will feature experts along with real people who are dealing with everyday challenges, including home safety, family planning, navigating the healthcare system, mental illness, nutrition, obesity and diabetes.

A feature called “Coffee Shop Chat” will air the conversations of East African men who gather at a local café to discuss politics, along with policies affecting their health and well-being. “Listen to Your Elders” will focus on the personal stories of older men and women, while “YouthSpeak” will give local high school students from the East African community a chance to report on health issues important to teens.