Sixth National Conference on Quality Health Care for Culturally Diverse Populations: Peer-to-Peer Practice Advancement Sessions

C-6 Reaching thousands: Using the internet to improve outreach, collaboration, and information dissemination
Tuesday, September 23, 2008: 2:00 PM-4:00 PM, Minn Marriott, 8th Floor - Wayzata/Gray's Bay
EthnoMed is a website containing medical and cultural information on immigrant and refugee groups, all kept in the public domain and reviewed by community members, translators, and/or clinicians, as appropriate.  It contains information specific to groups in the Seattle area, especially those seen at Harborview Medical Center, but much of the cultural and health information is of interest and applicable in other geographic areas. The project started in 1994 to bridge cultural and language barriers during medical visits. The objective is to make information about culture, language, health, illness and community resources directly accessible to health care providers who see patients from different ethnic groups.
EthnoMed is intended to be a community voice in the clinic, so user participation and feedback is essential.   EthnoMed assumes that cultures are dynamic, particularly immigrant cultures; for this reason an interactive electronic medium is particularly well suited to capture and express the changing cultural nuances. As immigrant groups acculturate and communities react to the change in unique directions regionally, EthnoMed can reflect this pattern of change. We assume that as groups acculturate, traditional concepts will be modified and so we solicit periodic review and feedback from community leaders about changing health concepts in their communities. Ethnic community profiles have been developed and reviewed by members of our local ethnic organizations. We welcome comments and suggestions from members of these ethnic groups around the world. As providers learn from their patients about traditional treatments, cultural perspectives or resources, we urge them to share this information with us.
EthnoMed is a joint project of University of Washington Health Sciences Library and the Harborview Medical Center's Community House Calls Program. We have collaborated with and received support from many organizations.  Because of the nature of our funding and the interests of volunteer contributors, as well as our desire to explore new technologies in delivering materials in formats serving the needs of diverse groups, we have not developed our site systematically.   However, we continue to develop it to serve the practical health-related needs of clinicians and community members.
Currently, with support from the Refugee Health Information Network (RHIN) and a NIH grant, we are involved in transforming EthnoMed from a semi-static website to a content management system supported by Plone.   While this has been a complicated and sometimes frustrating process, in the long run we will create a site that is easier for the user to navigate and for the small central staff to maintain.   Since all our work is the result of complex collaborations between providers, translators and community members, being able to keep track of materials in progress or being revised becomes crucial since, in many ways, EthnoMed can be considered an electronic textbook.  This funding has also helped us develop some new mental health materials and create the Pathways Project, a program which involves University of Washington students in the writing of articles for the site.

Presentation Information:

Program: Peer-to-Peer Practice Advancement Sessions

Ellen Howard, MLS , Health Sciences Libraries, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
    Information Management Librarian
    University of Washington
    Health Sciences Libraries
    Box 357155
    1959 Pacific St.
    Seattle WA, USA 98195-7155

    Phone: 206-685-2449
    Email Address:

    Biographical Sketch:
    As a University of Washington Librarian and the Head of the library branch at Harborview Medical Center, a public hospital serving newly arrived refugee / immigrant groups in Seattle, I founded EthnoMed in 1994 with clinicians and other staff at the Center. Because of reference work I had done for staff and my background in anthropology I could see the need for a place where cross cultural information related to our patients could be easily shared. Since then the capabilities of the web and access improved and I continually explored ways of presenting and sharing information, often using small NNLM grants to support the work, such as putting computers in the community centers of ethnic organizations. Currently, with NIH support, we are working to convert our semi-structured site to a content management system supported by Plone, which is open source software. Recently I received the 2008 Michael E. DeBakey Library Services Outreach Award.