A Pronounced Improvement in Health; DOCTORS THOUGHT LUBNA KERR'S FATHER WAS WORKING TOO HARD BECAUSE HE WAS ASIAN. BUT HE HAD A HEART CONDITION AND DIED BEFORE IT COULD BE TREATED. NOW LUBNA HELPS ETHNIC MINORITIES GET HEALTHIER BY TALKING TO THEM IN THEIR OWN LANGUAGE AND TAKING ACCOUNT OF THEIR CULTURAL DIFFERENCES

Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), March 7, 2006 | Go to article overview

A Pronounced Improvement in Health; DOCTORS THOUGHT LUBNA KERR'S FATHER WAS WORKING TOO HARD BECAUSE HE WAS ASIAN. BUT HE HAD A HEART CONDITION AND DIED BEFORE IT COULD BE TREATED. NOW LUBNA HELPS ETHNIC MINORITIES GET HEALTHIER BY TALKING TO THEM IN THEIR OWN LANGUAGE AND TAKING ACCOUNT OF THEIR CULTURAL DIFFERENCES


Byline: By Samantha Booth

ETTING medical help is pretty straight forward for most of us. But when faced with cultural differences and language barriers, dealing with even the most basic illnesses can prove difficult.

That's something pharmacist Lubna Kerr knows all about. Her dad was only 45 when he died of a heart attack.

For weeks before, he had been prescribed valium for stress.

The 43-year-old mum said: "He didn't have any language barriers and was an intelligent and well-educated man.

"But doctors assumed that because he was Asian, he worked too hard and must be suffering from stress.

"The fact he needed a bypass was eventually discovered, but it was too late. He died two days later.

"Ethnic minorities don't get the medical help they need and they won't until health authorities start to understand the problems caused by cultural differences.

"They can no longer just make assumptions about people of different races or hold on to the belief that eradicating language barriers with an interpreter will solve all the problems.

"I set up the Ethnic Minority Diabetic Service in an attempt to overcome these issues."

Lubna, who has worked as a hospital pharmacist for 12 years, had to think up a six-week research project while on a training course in Leeds.

She said: "I tried to think about what I had which I could use and about what issues were important to me.

"Diabetes has always interested me because of family reasons and, as I can speak Urdu, Punjabi and Hindi, and after what happened to my dad, a clinic of some sorts for diabetics for ethnic minorities seemed like the perfect solution.

"Diabetics can control the condition themselves, but they need the right education and information.

"I figured that the majority of diabetics from ethnic minorities don't have the knowledge they need to do so.

"Sometimes language is the biggest problem. But at other times, people just don't know where to go for help, what help is available or even what they need to do to look after their condition.

"Then even when they do, it is difficult for them to take that final step. People will come upwith all kinds of reasons why they can not come to clinics.

"I was determined to take away all these barriers. If they said they couldn't come because they didn't know what bus to get, I would find out for them."

Lubna set up her clinic in Edinburgh with the idea of monitoring the volunteers' blood sugar levels to see what the effect was of being given the right education in the language of their choice and under culturally sensitive circumstances.

She said: "I know that the most important thing to a lot of people from ethnic minorities is providing for their families.

"So I knew not to make appointments for them first thing in the morning because the chances were they were either busy with their businesses or, if they ran restaurants or takeaway shops, they would still be sleeping.

"If it suited them better, I would go to their workplace to do the checks there.

"I was also aware that if I was making an appointment to visit a man at his home, it was his wife I should phone, not the man himself.

"And, of course, I could speak to them in their own language or, if I couldn't, I would find someone who could. …

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A Pronounced Improvement in Health; DOCTORS THOUGHT LUBNA KERR'S FATHER WAS WORKING TOO HARD BECAUSE HE WAS ASIAN. BUT HE HAD A HEART CONDITION AND DIED BEFORE IT COULD BE TREATED. NOW LUBNA HELPS ETHNIC MINORITIES GET HEALTHIER BY TALKING TO THEM IN THEIR OWN LANGUAGE AND TAKING ACCOUNT OF THEIR CULTURAL DIFFERENCES
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