Bridging the Healthcare Language Gap: Malik gets help managing multiple chronic illnesses

 “If I have any medical or insurance-related problems, I call my patient navigator, my friend and he helps me! Service is excellent at AACI!”  --- Malik

Malik* used to be an engineer in Palestine, where he was born and lived most of his life in the West Bank. Five years ago he moved to the United States with his three sons and is now a permanent resident.

Unfortunately, Malik’s health dramatically declined in recent years and he now faces multiple chronic diseases, which require ongoing medical attention and limit daily activities. In Malik’s case, having cancer, heart and skin problems, poor vision, diabetes and high blood pressure means his risk of dying prematurely or being hospitalized is high.

Despite his condition, Malik continued to work so that he could stay active and productive. He delivered pizzas until recently, when his deteriorating vision forced him to quit. He also had to stop playing sports, one of his favorite activities.

Malik struggled a long time before getting the care he needed. “I was lost and really didn’t know what to do. I went to the emergency room several times looking for help. Every time they would tell me to go find a primary care doctor, but I didn’t know where to start or where to look. I didn’t understand what a primary care physician was, or how or where to find him. It was really overwhelming. I only wanted someone to help me with my medical needs and to answer insurance questions.”

Malik came to AACI in January 2015 uncertain that he would find any more help than he previously received at other health offices.  At AACI, he learned about the Patient Navigation program and that one of the patient navigators spoke Arabic, his native language.

[Patient navigators are health care professionals who guide patients through  complex health care systems and help them overcome obstacles accessing and receiving treatment. Patient navigators also advocate for them on crucial health, public housing, and transportation issues.]

“When I learned that a patient navigator spoke Arabic, I was so relieved,” Malik said. “I have never been able to speak Arabic in any other healthcare office. I thought this was 100% helpful.” 

With his patient navigator’s help, Malik applied for Medi-Cal and found a primary care doctor. His patient navigator also coordinated care with Stanford Hospital and Valley Medical Center for specialty appointments in dermatology and cardiology, served as an interpreter during some of his doctor’s appointments, and helped him fill prescriptions.

Today, Malik refers to his patient navigator as “my AACI friend” and visits AACI two to three times a month to manage his multiple health needs.

*Patient’s name was changed for this story.

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