Providing appropriate health care is a growing challenge in a rural community, particularly if the demographics of communities that are rapidly changing.  This was evident as providers at the Women’s Health department at Mayo Clinic Health System in Faribault tried to effectively meet the needs of expectant mothers in the local Somali population. Through an innovative and evolving partnership with HealthFinders Collaborative (HFC), new solutions were uncovered to provide improved care. 

Mayo Clinic Health System, Tina Rauenhorst, M.D. Obstetrician and Gynecologist was sensing misconceptions in the Somali community around women’s health care. Even though she uses in-person interpreters, Dr. Rauenhorst was concerned that her Somali patients were not fully understanding the importance of pre-natal care and that miscommunication could become a barrier to building relationships with her patients.  

When HealthFinders learned of these challenges, they offered the services of Bisharo Farah, one of their Community Health Workers. Bisharo grew up in Faribault and knew of misconceptions in the Somali community around our health care system and agreed to help. In addition to attending appointments with patients referred by the local Mayo clinic, Bisharo often meets with the women before their doctor’s visit to help them formulate questions and articulate concerns. She then follows up after the appointment to ensure the patient understands what the provider said during the visit.  

Working closely with Bisharo, providers from the women’s health department are enhancing the Somali patient experience. Providers are also gaining a better understanding of Somali culture and their perception of healthcare.    

“We are fortunate to have Bisharo as a resource and partner. She is fluent in both English and Somali and is a trusted member of the local community, so she was in the best position to step in to help,” said Tina Rauenhorst, M.D.  “Bisharo accompanies patients to their medical appointments and encourages them to ask questions. She helps patients understand the health system and explains why certain treatments are recommended,” said Dr. Rauenhorst. The collaboration is leading to greater patient understanding and willingness to follow the doctor’s instructions– in terms of attending appointments, vaccinations, exams and such. Patients are also more comfortable in discussing their health concerns and changes in their or their babies’ health. 

The partnership has grown to include MCHS providers hosting educational sessions for the Somali women. They discuss pregnancy and delivery in the US, why tests would be suggested, why there is a higher rate of C-Sections in Somali women than in other patient populations. They explain the importance of prenatal care, attendance at appointments and discuss the pros and cons of various delivery preferences.  

Bisharo continues to see patients who are referred from Mayo Clinic Health System women’s health department both at the Faribault clinic and in home visits. “This collaboration is a great example of health system partners working together to improve patient health,” said Bisharo.