Last updateWed, 18 Oct 2017 10am

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El Camino Hospital introduces Chinese Health Initiative: Demographics & disparities spur outreach

Photo Photos By Elliott Burr/Town Crier Dr. Peter Fung explains the health variations that plague the area's Chinese population.

El Camino Hospital recently launched the Chinese Health Initiative (CHI) to address health disparities in the area’s Chinese community.

The growing Chinese population was just one of the reasons to establish the program, according to Cecile Currier, El Camino’s vice president of corporate and community health services.

Approximately 362,000 Asians live in Silicon Valley, a number expected to increase to 420,000 by 2014. An estimated one-quarter of that population is Chinese, Currier said.

By 2014, more than six in 10 Cupertino residents will be Asian. In Saratoga and Sunnyvale, Asian residents will represent 50 percent of the population. It’s a little lower in Los Altos, which had an 8.1 percent Chinese population in 2009, according to city-data.com. All four cities are included in El Camino’s primary service area.

El Camino announced the initiative in January, approximately nine months after its implementation.

“This is actually something that’s been brewing here at El Camino for a number of years,” said hospital CEO Ken Graham.

A local 30-member advisory board of Chinese-speaking physicians and leaders from different sectors of the community determined which specific services and screenings were needed, as well as the cultural preferences among the area’s Chinese residents, Currier said.

The health differences among that demographic emerged as an important impetus in launching the initiative, according to Dr. Peter Fung, a Sunnyvale neurologist and advisory-board member.

The Chinese population suffers higher mortality rates from prostate, stomach and liver cancers, he said. Among all ethnic groups, Chinese Americans have the highest rate of liver cancer, and 80 percent of those with liver cancer have Hepatitis B.

Fung said his mother suffered a series of strokes beginning in 1994 – a seventh stroke left her demented, homebound and under 24-hour care. As a neurologist, Fung resolved to establish a system to solve these health problems.

“There are treatments for stroke,” Fung said. “And as many as 80 to 90 percent of strokes can be prevented.”

The CHI addresses culturally sensitive issues, such as end-of-life values and beliefs, as well as ingrained misunderstandings about routine health screenings, such as pap smears, pelvic exams and breast mammography, said manager Jean Yu. It is also important to provide information in the Chinese language, she said.

The program includes a network of Chinese-speaking physicians. Currently 52 primary-care physicians and specialists communicate in the Mandarin, Cantonese, Taiwanese and Shanghainese dialects. Special health screenings and education, targeted outreaches to the Chinese community and reference materials that explain the health disparities facing the Chinese community to physicians are now available.

“I am confident that this program will be very successful,” Fung said.

The goal for the next two years is to reach out to 1,500 members of the Chinese community and enroll 100 Chinese-speaking physicians.

“Over the next two years, we will expand the physician network and add more screenings for stroke, Hepatitis B and prostate – all health problems that disproportionately affect the Chinese community,” Currier said.

The initiative recently provided training to Chinese hospice-trained volunteers to implement culturally sensitive end-of-life care.

And there is a new option on El Camino Hospital’s patient menu – rice porridge.

“We all know that when you were sick, your mother would make rice porridge for you,” Yu said.

For more information, visit www.elcaminohospital.org/chi.

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