Woman writes chapter in book on language barriers

Published 10:30 am Monday, June 7, 2010

A local woman has co-written a chapter in a handbook that will train facilitators. Her chapter deals with how to make communication easier between multicultural groups and health care professionals.

“Language is one barrier,” Mary Laeger-Hagemeister said.

Laeger-Hagemeister, of Albert Lea, talked with Somali and Latino families about how to communicate with doctors and nurses, and also asked them what questions they had for health care professionals.

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“Frustrations were shared, and it went a long way in helping people understand each other,” Laeger-Hagemeister said.

One concern was how to help people tell first responders what is wrong. Laeger-Hagemeister said now first responders will have little index cards that have a few sayings like “Where is your pain?” in English and other languages so people who don’t speak English can point to which saying on the card that will help the first responders treat them better.

“It’s relationship building as well as a change of practices,” Laeger-Hagemeister said.

The book is titled “The Handbook for Working with Difficult Groups,” and it was published by the International Association of Facilitators. Laeger-Hagemeister used to be a facilitator with the University of Minnesota Extension Service and has studied leadership and education in multicultural communities.

“We also talked about preventative health care in the U.S. because many countries don’t talk about it or have resources,” Laeger-Hagemeister said.

Laeger-Hagemeister gathered questions from groups of Somalis and Latinos that they had for providers, and then asked providers what questions they had for the communities.

An example of this was some of the Somali women wanted to know why cesarean sections were used as an alternative to natural birth, because they aren’t used in their home countries. Laeger-Hagemeister explained to them that cesarean sections were used if the baby or mother is in distress as a life-saving technique. She also said that’s why birthing deaths are so much lower in the U.S., and the group realized the mortality rates were higher in their home countries.

“It was a fun project because I really like facilitating,” Laeger-Hagemeister said. “It was certainly an honor to be chosen out of all the applications.”

Mary Laeger-Hagemeister and Donna Rae Scheffert wrote the chapter on Facilitating Multicultural Groups, which was just one of the 20 chapters in the book. The book was published by Jossey-Bass in the spring of 2010. It is available in bookstores and online.

Laeger-Hagemeister works part time for the Albert Lea School District and is finishing her doctorate from the University of Minnesota studying social capital networking and immigration populations in rural Minnesota.