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MN Indian Health Care Advocates Enhance Hospital Experience

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"My role is, for lack of a better term, like an interpreter's role," said Aida Strom, Indian health care advocate at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to MPR News. "There are some real strong cultural identity issues that Indian people come with in the hospital."

So Strom bridges the gap, attending to Indian patients' requests, arranging for spiritual leaders or explaining medical information for patients and families.

"I'm from the Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota Oyate, which is in South Dakota. That's a super-cultural thing that we do: your grandma and your aunties and your family members will come, your extended family will be there when you're sick, especially if you may pass," Strom says. "If it's a child everybody will be here."

The general barrier to patients receiving regular care, especially with chronic diseases, is poverty.

Little interaction and too long lapses between crucial treatments causes Indian patients to distrust doctors, says Vikki Howard, who works as an Indian health advocate at North Country Regional Hospital in Bemidji, Minnesota.

"A large number don't have a primary care provider, meaning they don't go to the doctor regularly, they don't have a physician that they have a relationship with," she told MPR News.

Get the full story here.