For Immediate Release: Sept. 15, 2008
Media Contact: Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health
BURLINGTON – Burlington is a city that is vibrant with residents who come from a diversity of cultures, speak many different languages, and have experiences that color their understanding of life in America.
A telling example of this came to light as the Vermont Department of Health discovered just how ineffective its handwashing poster may be for some people. When the poster was shown to representatives of the city’s refugee and immigrant communities, several people were unsure exactly what they were being asked to do.
As a result, the Health Department partnered with the Agency of Human Services Refugee Office, an intern with the University of Vermont School of Nursing, the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program and the Association of Africans Living in Vermont, to create a 12-minute video that clearly demonstrates simple actions to take to stop illness like the flu from spreading — or to slow the spread of pandemic flu. This project is one of Burlington's Pandemic Flu: Take the Lead community initiatives.
The video stars students and adults from Burlington's diverse cultural communities, and will be available in English plus 11 other languages: French, Spanish, Swahili, Arabic, Vietnamese, Russian, Bosnian, Kurundi, Somali, Maai-Maai, and Nepali. It shows people taking practical measures — washing hands often and well, staying away from others when sick, and keeping surfaces clean — at school, at work, and at home.
Listening to people, including many who do not speak English, explain why the poster message was missing its mark was enlightening.
Marija Valencak has been involved in refugee resettlement in Vermont for about 15 years and has worked with many refugee groups who live in Vermont.
“It is important for newcomers to be informed about possible health risks,” she said. “They are used to washing their hands. This is not new to them, it is about the way it is presented to them. Any important health-related information needs to be presented in a way that newcomers understand, and can protect their health in their new country. For example, some newcomers may not be familiar with a soap dispenser because they never used one before, but they are familiar with a soap bar.”
Chris CichoskiKelly of One Mile Productions, who produced the video for the Health Department, said he shot more than 10 hours of film in 20 different locations, and then edited the film down to 12 minutes.
“I have a much better understanding of the immigrant community right here in Vermont and the difficulties they are facing,” he said. “Some of them might not even have a frame of reference for what a clock is, for example. Imagine having a job and not knowing how to tell time and not knowing how time is kept here in America. It can be an entirely foreign concept for someone. That’s a difficulty I did not imagine before doing this project.”
David Casey, RN, who is pursuing a graduate degree at UVM, worked on the creation of the video and listened closely to the feedback of six small focus groups of representatives from refugee and the immigrant communities.
“The most important thing we learned is you cannot wait until an emergency occurs before you start building relationships with people,” Casey said. “Involving as many groups, individuals and resources as possible will only make the end product better and provide better ownership for everybody.”
The English language version of Prevent the Flu video will be available this week at: healthvermont.gov, with the other language versions following soon.
September is National Preparedness Month, and state health officials are asking Vermonters in all walks of life to prepare for an extreme health emergency such as pandemic influenza by taking simple steps NOW to prepare: Practice good health manners. Be ready for an emergency. Know your community and workforce plans.
Burlington is one of nine communities across the country participating as a "collaboratory" in the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' Pandemic Flu: Take the Lead campaign to encourage personal preparedness for an extreme health emergency. Reaching every member of the community is a priority of the campaign.
This video project was made possible with funding from the Office of Refugee Resettlement, US Department of Health and Human Services, grant number G-07-AA-VT-1100; and in cooperation with the Vermont Refugee Office, Agency of Human Services.
For more information, resources and tools, visit the Health Department's website at healthvermont.gov, then select pandemic flu.