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New Routes' Immigrant Project 'Egal Shidad' Aims to Solve Somali Mental Health Problems through New Media

As stories of despair in the Somali immigrant community continue to make news headlines, one project is trying to make a positive impact on Somali mental health through new media. Egal Shidad: Stories of Somali Health, based in Minneapolis, is a DVD produced in late 2008 that has already had requests for nearly 700 copies in the US and abroad.

Madison, WI (PRWEB) March 31, 2009 -- As stories of despair in the Somali immigrant community continue to make news headlines, one project is trying to make a positive impact on Somali mental health through new media. Egal Shidad: Stories of Somali Health, based in Minneapolis, is a DVD produced in late 2008 that has already had requests for nearly 700 copies in the US and abroad.

The hour-long program was created by and for members of the Somali community, using Somali language and aspects of Somali culture to relay information and reduce barriers associated with mental health problems. Posted at and subtitled in English, the program was produced by Mukhtar Gaaddasaar.

"We take our audience on a journey to learn about mental health through storytelling, personal opinions, and insight from mental health professionals who work with Somalis," said Mukhtar Gaaddasaar, Egal Shidad producer. "We also include historical accounts of traditional ceremonies and guidance from an Imam. The approach has been well received and is making an impact at a time when it's needed more than ever."

Egal Shidad: Stories of Somali Health has aired multiple times in the Twin Cities on both radio and television. So far nearly 700 copies have been requested and distributed to parties in more than 22 states and 11 countries. A corresponding lesson for English Language Learners has been prepared. Related materials provide ELL instructors with a lesson plan and worksheets that build on English language skills using concepts about mental health expressed in the film.

This project is the result of a collaborative effort between Emergency Community and Health Outreach, Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, Somali Producer Mukhtar Gaaddasaar, KFAI Fresh Air Radio, and St. Paul Neighborhood Network.

Egal Shidad is also part of a larger, national project called New Routes to Community Health, which improves the health of immigrants in the U.S. using media created by immigrants.

"Our program's 'new route' to community health runs straight through urban neighborhoods, populated by immigrants. Health and mental health concerns are an endemic part of the landscape," said Beth Mastin, national program director of New Routes. "That's why our national collaborative offers immigrant groups new tools to tell their stories and make their communities stronger."

The eight New Routes projects are each receiving $225,000 from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation over three years. The media content they create is housed here and available for any community to use. The Web site also serves as a resource for research and news on the topic of immigrant community health. In addition to Egal Shidad, the other seven New Routes projects include:

Atlanta, GA - HEARMe. East African immigrants and their Atlanta neighbors collaborating to create on-air, online and on-stage productions promoting health and cultural competency within their community. Partners are Emory University, Sagal Radio and WRFG, community radio station.

Boston, MA - Twa Zanmi (Three Friends). This project is creating telenovelas to help Haitian immigrants recognize and respond to symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety. Partners are the Haitian American Public Health Initiatives, Haitian Media Network and the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Chicago, IL - Salud: Healing through the Arts. Young people are producing radio programming and live theater events focused on helping Latin American youth make better health decisions. Partners are Latinos Progresando, the National Museum of Mexican Art and WRTE, Radio Arte.

Los Angeles, CA - Navigating Health Care in the U.S. for Chinese American Seniors. This project is developing television news features and instructional DVDs to help Chinese American seniors overcome cultural, language and navigational barriers and communicate more effectively with their adult children caretakers and health care providers. Partners are the Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research and Training; Chinatown Service Center and KSCI TV/LA 18.

Oakland, CA - Abriendo las Cajas (Opening Boxes) - This project has created media aimed at intimate partner (domestic) violence within the Latin American immigrant population in the Fruitvale neighborhood. Partners are La Clinica de la Raza, Bay Area Video Coalition and ZeroDivide.

Philadelphia, PA - Our Stories, Our Health. This project features immigrant Laotian and Vietnamese immigrants telling their stories on digital video created by Southeast Asian elders. It is intended to encourage discussion on health disparities and communication barriers faced by immigrants, with a focus on the problem of high blood pressure. Partners are the Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition (SEAMAAC), University of Pennsylvania, WHYY public broadcasting, Thomas Jefferson University and Temple University.

San Francisco, CA - Domestic Worker Safety and Dignity Project. In this project, domestic worker advocates are developing a social marketing campaign advocating healthier working conditions for domestic workers. Partners include La Raza Centro Legal, University of California/Berkeley, and Underground Advertising.

New Routes to Community Health is funded through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Vulnerable Populations portfolio. The Benton Foundation and MasComm Associates provide direction and technical assistance for the program.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change.

About the Benton Foundation
The Benton Foundation works to ensure that media and telecommunications serve the public interest and enhance democracy. It pursues this mission by seeking policy solutions that support the values of access, diversity and equity, and by demonstrating the value of media and telecommunications for improving the quality of life for all.


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