SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Going to see a doctor can be daunting for anyone, but even more nerve-wracking when English isn’t your primary language. That’s why a social worker with Sanford Health is working to make sure everyone has the knowledge they need to stay healthy.
Alma Golzalez’s primary language is Spanish. When she first learned about having to get screened for cancer, a friend referred her to Erica Lessman at Sanford Health.
“Said this is the most person like help everyone. Everyone from Mexico, other countries and I say, ‘Oh, it’s nice’ and I feel happy because I found it,” Golzalez said.
Lessman, a cancer educator and outreach coordinator, has been making material about cancer screenings and prevention more accessible for everyone. She does that through visual flip charts.
“That’s a big thing for non-English speaking populations is just being able to see what I’m actually talking about and then you don’t have to have everything in their language,” Lessman said. “Because a lot of times they don’t read in their own language or they don’t have certain words in their language. So it’s just been going on a level that they better understand for something that’s really hard to grasp.”
Lessman says programs like this are important because people who don’t speak English are less likely to get screened for cancer.
“Obviously I hone in on the cancers that you can be screened for,” Lessman said. “In a lot of the countries that they come from, they don’t have insurance; they don’t know what prevention is. They only go when something is extremely wrong or they can’t even. So a lot of it is like breast cancer education, cervical cancer, colon cancer.”
“Sometimes, women we feel scary when hearing cancer but no, this is a good opportunity to see your body is calling you to check everything and that’s a good time. And a good time to see it is early. We can work and we can save the lives many times,” Golzalez said.
Lessman works with leaders in non-English speaking communities to get the word out and set up home visits with patients. She also helps patients find which clinics work best for them, schedule appointments and gives rides as needed.