At Clínica Amiga, language barriers come down for Hispanic pediatric patients

Dr. Ceballos for Know. Photo by Pete Comparoni | UKphoto

Janeth Ceballos Osorio, MD, UK HealthCare’s only native Spanish-speaking pediatrician, recognized a unique need in the patients she saw. Language barriers often put Kentucky’s growing population of Hispanics at a disadvantage regarding healthcare.

“During my conversations with Hispanic families, they often confided me their challenges to access healthcare,” said Ceballos. “They shared with me their frustration caused by the language and cultural barriers when interacting with healthcare services, how their children might not have gotten the services they needed because they did not know how to navigate the system or how their concerns, symptoms or provider recommendations have been lost in translation.”

In September 2018, UK HealthCare’s Department of Pediatrics opened the doors to Clínica Amiga, a pediatric clinic catering to Spanish-speaking families.

Vulnerable to Poverty

Immigrant children and their families are more vulnerable to poverty, adverse developmental and behavioral and physical health outcomes. This can be attributed to several social factors such as language barriers, legal and immigration issues, low health literacy levels and insufficient culturally-sensitive materials and programs to address their needs.

“Hispanics are at higher risk to suffer obesity, teen pregnancy and tobacco use,” said Ceballos. “They endure non-communicable diseases like heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Children of Hispanic origin are at higher risk for developmental problems as speech delay and mental health problems including depression and anxiety. Over the last year, I have seen in my practice an exponential increase in the number of Hispanic children and teenagers with mental health problems.”

Central Kentucky has a large Spanish-speaking population. Ceballos reports that over a thousand patients who visit UK HealthCare’s General Pediatrics clinic in the past six months required interpreter services.

“Dr. Cebellos and her team are providing an invaluable service to Central Kentucky’s burgeoning Hispanic population,” said Scottie Day, MD, physician-in-chief at Kentucky Children’s Hospital. “By her addressing the health disparities in this underserved demographic, UK HealthCare’s Kentucky Children’s Hospital remains true to its promise to provide the most advanced care to the children of the commonwealth.”

More Than Primary Care

In addition to primary care services, Clínica Amiga provides families access to community programs, information about health and wellness, and Spanish phone line so that parents can call with questions.

Ceballos also hosts monthly information meetings for Spanish-speaking families of children with special health needs called Un Abrazo Amigo, Spanish for “a friendly embrace”.

“Our goal is to provide social and community support to families who are usually isolated and, who usually encounter many barriers to access community and healthcare services for their children,” said Ceballos. “We meet once per month at Cardinal Valley Elementary school and provide dinner and childcare. We talk about topics such as immigration issues, financial planning, self-care, how to take care of your child when is sick with the flu and ways to keep a balance diet. We currently have 30 families enrolled and growing each month.”


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