Per Montgomery County: Coinciding with the celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, The Health Care Providers’ Handbook on Hindu Patients was released today marking a major initiative by Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich’s Office of Community Partnerships Asian Pacific American Advisory Group (APAAG.) This is the first such handbook in the nation providing detailed information specifically for Hindu and Jain patients.
This endeavor is led by the advisory’s group’s co-chair, Ishani Chowdhury, who single-handedly launched this effort several years ago. The project found a partner when the newly-formed Health Subcommittee formed by Gov. Wes Moore’s Commission on South Asian American Affairs took interest. The guidebook aims to inform health care providers of religious beliefs and traditions practiced by Hindus, as well as dietary needs of Jain patients. It covers a broad range of topics including prayer, maternity services, diet, traditional medicines and remedies, end of life issues, care for the elderly, as well County and state resources.
“This handbook is part of the ongoing effort in Montgomery County to ensure that health care providers have a better understanding of their patient’s cultural and religious backgrounds,” said Montgomery County Executive Elrich. “This effort lines up with our equity goals for healthcare in the County and will help families get the best care possible.”
Adapted for the state of Maryland from a guidebook developed by Queensland Health, Government of Australia, the 24-page Health Care Providers’ Handbook on Hindu Patients draws insight from a diverse Hindu advisory committee and contains information not often addressed, such as astrological beliefs, abortion, home visits and medicines containing animal by-products. Queensland Health’s novel initiative was featured in the January/February/March 2013 edition of Hinduism Today magazine, serving the one billion strong global Hindu community.
“As a Hindu, I believe this will have two important impacts,” said Maryland Delegate Kumar Barve, who represents Maryland’s 17th District. “First, it will help to overcome linguistic and cultural barriers and assure better health outcomes. Secondly, and perhaps more important, this is a significant acknowledgement of our important place in Maryland.”
“With over 2 million Hindus in the United States and over 80,000 Indians and Nepali Americans in Maryland alone, it is important that our caregivers are sensitive to the needs of an ever growing and diverse community,” said APAAG co-chair Chowdhury. “By being culturally in-tune caregivers may be better equipped to address a variety of issues that are unique to the Hindu and Jain diaspora. With over 15% of Montgomery County residents self-identifying as Asian descent, Maryland can serve as a model in helping health care providers understand and meet the distinct cultural and religious needs of its many patients.”
“While the Hindu and Jain population is not limited to those of South Asian descent, this is, however, the first book of its kind dedicated to addressing issues of a community has grown steadily over the last decade,” said Sharad Doshi, a commissioner on the state’s South Asian American Affairs board who provided guidance on Jain adherents. “This is especially important for Jains, whose health care needs are not always adequately addressed.”
The Office of Community Partnership’s next steps will focus on outreach to hospitals, nursing homes, private ambulatory services, community organizations and health fairs. Developing the guidebook was a major accomplishment but the main objective is to make healthcare providers aware of the book’s availability as a resource.
“Ensuring people are aware of it and utilize it is key,” said Chowdhury. “Our goal is to seek out health related issues/disparities in terms of service and availability, and our hope is that this guidebook can help bridge that gap.”
The Advisory Group has also begun work on developing Health Care Providers’ Handbooks for Sikh patients and Muslim patients, respectively, slated for release later this year.
Health Care Providers’ Handbook on Hindu Patients is available online for download here.