Multilingual refugees given free dental check-ups

Genesis Community Health routinely offers free or low-cost healthcare to low-income, uninsured patients.
Posted at 5:17 PM, Mar 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-02 14:32:07-05

GARDEN CITY, Idaho — Going to the dentist is an often dreadful yet necessary experience for preventing cavities or other dental problems.

"Everybody needs to be seeing the dentist on a regular basis," said Dr. Kim B. Keller, DDS, Idaho State Dental Association.

But for the multilingual refugee population in Boise, communicating with a dentist can be difficult.

"That can be a really tough barrier in a lot of situations especially related to our health," said Madison Noble, Coordinator, Genesis Community Health.

That's why on Friday at Genesis Community Health Clinic, Idaho State Dental Association accommodated language barriers by providing interpreters, and even volunteer dentists, like Dr. Tarasai Githu, DDS-- an American immigrant from Kenya who speaks Swahili herself.

"It's like, 'Okay, sweet. She gets me,' or, 'She can understand me.' So that just opens up dialogue as well. It's just like, "Okay, fine, I feel like I can really talk to her and tell her how I feel. And that initial, like, 'habari yako' in Swahili makes the difference," said Dr. Githu (sidenote: "habari yako" means "how are you" in Swahili).

Dr. Githu said she had seen a steady flow of patients throughout the day; the majority of them native speakers of Swahili, but many Russian-speaking Eastern Europeans as well.

"I never thought it would come in handy, but, ya know, it has," said Dr. Githu.

Genesis Community Health routinely offers healthcare to low-income, uninsured patients, and Friday's check-ups were free of charge to refugee patients.

"Not everyone has that access to care, and it doesn't mean that they should just be pushed to the side, and, 'Hey, they'll figure it out,' and so, it's kind of important to have a place like this for them to come, to feel as a part of the community, and to feel like they're cared for."

Dr. Githu said she volunteers at the clinic roughly once a week. She said she hasworked in corporate dentistry before, but finds community health more rewarding.

"It may be a small gift I may be able to give them, where it's a small service, but to them, it's big, it's huge, it's like, 'Thank you so much for getting me out of pain, for this relief. Thank you so much for caring for me, and taking care of my need.' So that's a lot more rewarding for me I feel."

To learn more about nonprofit Genesis Community Health, visit their website.