Harvard medical student Pooja Chandrashekar’s initiative to help immigrants with COVID-19 info includes Hindi, Gujarati, Malayalam and Urdu.
English-speaking people in America have a fairly easy access to information and advisories about COVID-19 amid a coronavirus lock-down.
But language hurdles make it difficult for a large number of vulnerable old people in immigrant communities to find the right information and resources about the dreaded disease.
Now help is at hand. A first-year Indian American medical student at Harvard Medical School has come up with a great idea to reach out to this population with relevant COVID-19 resources.
A team of over 150 medical students led by Pooja Chandrashekar, is developing COVID-19 fact sheets and translating them into 30 languages.
These include several Indian languages like Gujarati, Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam, Bengali, Punjabi, Tamil, Marathi and Urdu.
Pooja Chandrashekar, founder and director of the COVID-19 Health Literacy Project, tells the American Bazaar about the novel initiative:
“As the COVID-19 pandemic is burgeoning, there has been a real lack of accessible health information available in different languages,” she said.
The goal of the project “is to translate accessible COVID-19 information into different languages that we then provide to community-based organizations and clinics.”
Chandrashekar’s team is developing and translating fact sheets on these topics: COVID-19 Prevention, About COVID-19, COVID-19 Management, COVID-19 for Children, COVID-19 for Pregnant Women.
Based at institutions around the country, the team of medical students is working day and night to translate the COVID-19 info in various languages.
Besides Indian languages, these include Spanish, Mandarin Chinese (Simplified), Mandarin Chinese (Traditional), Farsi, French, Arabic, Filipino, Korean, Malay, German, Russian, Vietnamese, Italian, Portuguese, Armenian, Creole, Swahili, Navajo, Indonesian and Greek.
“The idea for such a project,” Chandrashekar said, “came from my realization that as the COVID-19 pandemic is burgeoning, there has been a real lack of accessible health information available in different languages.”
“This can prevent certain populations, especially those who are most vulnerable, from knowing when and how to seek care,” she said.
“I also realized that as medical students, many of us have been grappling how we can meaningfully contribute to COVID-19 prevention and management.”
“As medical students,” Chandrashekar said, “we have an understanding of medical information and a capacity to relay this information to the general public.”
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This made “us the perfect coalition to develop and disseminate a resource like this,” she said noting, “I received over 250 responses to my call to action from eager medical students around the country.”
Chandrashekar then “assembled a coalition of around 150 students to create, translate, proofread, and design accessible fact sheets in 30 different languages.”
While the team hopes hopes to have the materials ready by next week, she as a medical professional advises people to follow the advisories in these extraordinary times.
“Yes – I want to emphasize the importance of social distancing as we brace for the worst of this pandemic,” Chandrashekar said.
“The best way to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent us from reaching an Italy-like situation is to stay home,” she said.
“Seek help if you notice symptoms (fever, dry cough, shortness of breath) and call ahead before visiting your doctor.”
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