Expanding Health Care Coverage

Project Title

Addressing Cultural & Linguistic Barriers to Facilitated Enrollment

Grant Amount


Priority Area

Expanding Health Care Coverage

Date Awarded

November 15, 2007


Western NY






According to the University at Buffalo Department of Family Medicine (UB), the West Side community of Buffalo, New York is predominately poor (60% below 200% of the Federal poverty level), with a large Hispanic population and growing numbers of refugees from Somalia, Sudan, Vietnam, Burma, Ethiopia, Liberia, the former Soviet Union, and Middle Eastern countries. Many residents are “linguistically isolated,” and 1,775 households (more than 4,000 people) are uninsured. While many of these individuals are likely eligible for public health insurance, they may not know it. This project aimed to address the cultural and linguistic barriers to enrollment faced by immigrant and refugee populations in Buffalo, New York. Project staff replicated a volunteer facilitated enrollment program, the People’s Access To Healthcare (PATH) program to train health professional students and, in turn, have them assist immigrants and refugees with enrolling in health insurance coverage. PATH students held 20 sessions and reached 100 people. Most of the participants in the sessions already had some form of health insurance, however, and did not need to enroll in Medicaid.

Grant Update
View the tool kit developed under this grant including guides to public and private health insurance in Arabic, Burmese, English, Karen, Vietnamese and Somali.

Buffalo’s West Side is a community in great need with a majority of low-income residents, a large Hispanic population (30%), and growing numbers of refugees from Somalia, Sudan, Vietnam, Burma, Ethiopia, Liberia, the former Soviet Union, and the Middle East. More than 4,000 people in the community are uninsured. With the help of student volunteers, this project will work on enrolling these residents in insurance programs for which they are eligible.

This project will reach many of those individuals by translating existing insurance enrollment materials into more than five languages (including Somali and Somali Bantu, Sudanese, Burmese, Vietnamese, and Rwandese/Burundi), and assigning medical students to and assist facilitated enrollers in serving these populations. Students from the University of Buffalo Medical School will be trained to use the translated materials, and will receive overall training on cultural competency. The student volunteers will work biweekly at two safety net providers (the Jericho Road Family Practice and Mattina Health Center), which serve as the main sites of care for the West Side and its immigrant/refugee residents. A similar medical student outreach program was very successful in reaching low-income African Americans in Buffalo’s East Side. This program will create a series of forms and materials that could be used by other communities, and could assist in developing cultural competency among future health professionals. The project aims to have a direct impact on more than 400 uninsured families with limited English proficiency, including more than 1,000 individuals.