Monday, September 8, 2014

Meeting people where they are: How the radio is being used to eradicate health disparities among the Haitian population in Somerville, MA

As an ICH intern I have had the privilege of working on a number of projects, one of which was the Kwen Sante (Health Corner) radio show survey. This project, led by Marie-Louise (Malou) Jean-Baptiste, MD, an internist at Cambridge Health Alliance, sought to engage the Haitian population living in Somerville through radio segments about health-related topics such as hypertension, cancer, and HIV/AIDS. Traditionally, the radio has been a vehicle for providing important social and political information in Haiti. Therefore, by disseminating health information to this community via the radio in Haitian Creole, Dr. Jean-Baptiste is able to provide heath information to those with low literacy and limited English skills in a way that is relevant to this unique population. 

To help assess the effectiveness of Kwen Sante among Haitian individuals living in Somerville, Dr. Jean-Baptiste partnered with the Institute for Community Health (ICH) to conduct a one-time survey at a local church health fair event to evaluate whether residents were familiar with the radio show, what they had learned, and whether the show was improving their health. Out of the 43 respondents, 26 (60.5%) reported listening to Kwen Sante. Although the sample size was small, the results were positive overall, with most respondents citing that they had either learned something new about their health and/or applied their new knowledge to their lives. See the chart below for results from one question of the survey.

Working on this project through ICH taught me that even when the sample size is relatively small, you can still find something interesting to take away from the experience. For instance, even though the project was aimed at Haitians living in Somerville, 16 out of the 26 listeners lived elsewhere in the Boston area, telling us that Kwen Sante has attracted more listeners than those originally intended. Fantastic! Overall, ICH helped demonstrate that the Kwen Sante radio show is making a positive impact amongst Haitian residents, and from what I can tell, it has the potential to reach many more.

Janelle Mellor is a student at Boston University School of Public Health concentrating in Global Health. For more information on the ICH internship program and to apply for current intern positions, please contact Reann Gibson at


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