West Bank program helps seniors learn to manage health

Abdullahi Sheikh started a program to help seniors learn about health in the U.S.

Abdullahi Sheikh explains what high cholesterol is during a healthcare program that educates immigrant and refugee seniors in the Brian Coyle Center on Friday, Mar. 31, 2017.

Carter Jones

Abdullahi Sheikh explains what high cholesterol is during a healthcare program that educates immigrant and refugee seniors in the Brian Coyle Center on Friday, Mar. 31, 2017.

Raju Chaduvula

While immigrating to the U.S. can be stressful, living in a small apartment with food readily available and not needing to walk long distances to work can also cause health problems for new arrivals.

To help immigrants manage their health, Abdullahi Sheikh, a Pillsbury United Communities health programs manager, started a six-week course for people over the age of 60 in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.

The program, initially developed by Stanford University, is supposed to be a self-management class for seniors who want to know more about their chronic health problems and how to deal with them.

Many of the seniors at a class Friday afternoon had chronic issues such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, asthma and diabetes.

Sheikh said he started the classes to help immigrant seniors in the neighborhood, many of whom have struggled to adjust to the health care system.

Sheikh said the class will also focus on how cultural changes can contribute to health issues and how to work with the health care system.

Many of the seniors in the neighborhood, Sheikh said, think part of the reason they have health issues is because they moved to the U.S. He said while the change can contribute to the illness, it’s also important to show that these illnesses are universal.

Kathleen Thiede Call, a University of Minnesota health policy and management professor, said there is truth to how moving to a different country can cause health issues.

For example, she said if a person comes from a country where there is a lot of farming or where people walk far to get to work, and [they] move to an urban environment where those things are taken away, the lifestyle change will cause some changes in health.

Sheikh said living in a smaller apartment, where food is more readily available, and physical exercise — like walking longer distances to get access to things like food and work — might affect health and contribute to a chronic condition.

Call said the American health care system is different from other countries, and payment methods and language differences can cause further inconvenience.

Sheikh said it’s necessary for people to have direct discussions with their doctors. He encouraged the participants to be open when asking about topics like prescriptions and troubles with medication.

The class is an open, discussion-based learning environment, Sheikh said. The participants will also keep a weekly evaluation sheet where they will come up with questions and checkpoints to track as the class goes on.

Abdi M. Hussein, a first time attendee, said he came to learn more about how to take care of himself

“I hope to get more enlightened about how to improve my life,” said Bashir Mohamed, who has high blood pressure.

The program runs every Friday for the next six weeks.