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With a new citywide partnership, Penn is helping senior-citizen immigrants educate their communities - by making videos.

Penn's department of Family Medicine and Community Health has joined in a partnership to improve the health care of Southeast Asian immigrants in Philadelphia, which has the largest Southeast Asian refugee population in Pennsylvania.

A number of groups will work to help Laotian and Vietnamese senior citizens create videos about general health issues and their own experiences.

The project has been in a preliminary phase since last fall and will hold a launch event on March 26.

The initiative, Media Partnerships for Community Engagement in Southeast Asian Health, includes Penn; WHYY, a local broadcasting station; the Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition, known as SEAMAAC; and consulting partners Temple and Jefferson universities.

The SEAMAAC Elder Council found that hypertension, or high blood pressure, was the most pressing health issue affecting the community

Hypertension, along with language-barrier issues and patient-doctor communication, will be the focus of the educational videos, which will be shown during workshops and on WHYY television broadcasts.

Officials said they hope the videos will also help students and health care professionals.

"We anticipate that the videos will be used in the training of health care professionals who may not be aware of some of immigrants' problems and concerns," said WHYY's executive director, Willo Carey.

The partners also hope the Southeast Asian communities will be strengthened by allowing elders to participate in the education of other immigrants.

"Especially in Asian communities, elders hold a leadership position and place of reverence," said Giang Nguyen, a professor of Family Medicine and Community Health. "When they move to a new country, they sometimes become isolated or dependent upon the language skills of the young, causing a disconnect."

Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant himself, said he hopes the project will "engage elders" again in their communities. He said the community seems excited thus far, despite the fact that meetings take three times as long because of translation into Laotian and Vietnamese.

"This really is their project," Carey said. "They choose the topics and they create the product."

The project is part of a national project called New Routes to Community Health and is paid for by a three-year grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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