The region surrounding Saint Barnabas Medical Center has seen a surging Chinese population recently, and a new program has been launched to meet their healthcare needs.
As part of the new The Center for Asian Health, the Chinese Health Initiative offers bilingual primary care and patient navigation services. New Jersey has the fourth-largest concentration of Chinese people in the US, which increased 33% in just the past 10 years.
"Many Chinese report problems accessing healthcare due to language and cultural barriers", says Su Wang, MD, MPH, the Center's medical director. "People will travel to Flushing, Queens to seek healthcare or many just haven't seen a doctor in years. We hope to help create a network of providers here in Northern New Jersey to meet their needs."
The program boasts a Mandarin-speaking patient navigator who coordinates patients' health services. "Chenxia Duan offers an invaluable service of navigating patients through the often complex healthcare system," says Dr. Wang. "I've seen patients faces light up with relief as she makes appointments for them, explains to them what to expect, and answers any questions they have." Ms. Duan was a physician in China, and her clinical background is big asset in this position. "Without her personalized attention, many just wouldn't make it to the doctor."
One of the programs goals is to increase awareness about Asian health issues to both the public and medical providers. There are many diseases more prevalent in Asians, including gastrointestinal and liver cancers, hepatitis B, diabetes, and lupus. "We hope to make physicians more aware so when they see Asian patients, these conditions are not overlooked," says Dr. Wang
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is one focus of the Center for Health's outreach efforts. "One in 10 Asians has HBV, and it is often a lifelong disease that can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer," says Dr. Wang who is a national expert on HBV. "Most people are asymptomatic, and only 1/3 of those infected know they are. Because it is preventable by vaccine and effective treatments available, screening and early diagnosis are crucial."
For a limited time, the Center for Asian Health will offer free screening for hepatitis B, which involves a simple blood test. Call 973-322-6888 for an appointment.
The Center seeks to mobilize the Chinese population to take charge of their health "People focus on work and family, and neglect their own health. Asians have amongst the lowest rates of getting preventive care, such as mammograms and colonscopies." The initiative hopes to help change these statistics. "We want people to recognize that being healthy is crucial to having a good life. And if we can remove cultural and language barriers to healthcare, patients become more engaged and have better health outcomes."