Health in Cultural Context

Cultural Brokers Then

The JCRS valued cultural sensitivity and social connectedness as a catalyst for healing. Personal connection to patients was a key value at the JCRS, continuing even years after patients left the sanatorium. JCRS founder Dr. Charles Spivak and his staff acted as cultural brokers, conversing with patients in their native Yiddish and respecting their ethnic traditions, while also introducing them to American culture. At the JCRS, physicians themselves addressed social, emotional, and cultural aspects of care. Professional fields such as social work that focus on social, emotional, and practical needs alongside medical care were just beginning to emerge.

Top Left:  JCRS patients learning English (Photo: Beck Archives, University of Denver)
Middle Left: JCRS patients at citizenship class (Photo: Beck Archives, University of Denver)
Bottom Left:  Hebrew typewriter from the JCRS (Photo: Beck Archives, University of Denver)

Cultural Brokers Now

In the Denver area, several organizations including the DAWN Clinic and the Denver Health Lowry Refugee Clinic provide healthcare specifically to immigrants and refugees. The social and emotional aspects of care are most often addressed by non-physician providers who practice accompaniment. Social workers, care coordinators, and community navigators connect with patients on a personal level, honor their cultures, and facilitate their access to community resources such as food, housing, and employment. In contrast to the JCRS, patients receiving care at these clinics speak dozens of languages. Even with in-person and phone-based interpretation services, the language barrier remains a challenge for both patients and providers.

Top Right:  Languages spoken by refugee populations in Denver today


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