According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kentucky has the fifth-highest rate of obesity in the country, while the Hispanic population has the highest age-adjusted prevalence of obesity at 47 percent.
In an effort to help address these devastating statistics, Sts. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital, part of KentuckyOne Health, has created a bilingual weight loss support program for Spanish-speaking patients seeking bariatric surgery, specifically the Lap Band System. It is the first program of its kind in the country.
“Over the past several years, we noticed more and more Hispanic patients reaching out to us via our Facebook page, using the translating feature to communicate,” said Amber Sims, RN, MSN, who has served as a Bariatric Program Coordinator at Sts. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital for five years. “It became clear that there is a large population that would benefit from our services, and we needed to ensure these patients had access to our program.”
Obesity can have a devastating effect on one’s long-term health, contributing to a host of dangerous conditions including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, certain types of cancer, and much more. Many patients find success through a procedure called the Lap-Band System, during which a smaller gastric pouch is created by implanting an inflatable ring around the stomach, creating a comfortable feeling of fullness for the patient with a smaller amount of food.
Though it’s considered the safest weight loss operation available, the Lap-Band System carries the same risks as any other surgical procedure and requires a lifetime commitment to maintaining a healthier lifestyle to minimize complications. Though Sts. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital offers its patients several resources including informational seminars, frequently asked questions and answers from the bariatric surgeons, and online support groups before and following the procedure, until recently, those resources were only available in English.
“All patients have a fundamental right to fully understand the procedures and treatments recommended to them, and to be supported throughout their weight loss journey,” said Dr. Vincent Lusco III, general surgeon at Sts. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital. “By offering all of our support services in Spanish, we are able to reach a broader population on their journey toward better health.”
A key component of this effort is the addition of a Bilingual Bariatric Care Navigator. Paola Mott, LPN, a native of the Dominican Republic who speaks Spanish as her first language, has six years of nursing experience, and earned a certificate as a medial interpreter from Catholic Charities. In her new role, Mott will serve as a liaison between Spanish-speaking patients and their surgical team. She will also translate informational patient resources into Spanish and facilitate support groups for Spanish speakers.
“Undergoing any medical procedure can be scary, and a language barrier can contribute to that apprehension,” said Mott. “I’m passionate about improving the health of the Hispanic community in Kentucky, and helping our patients feel confident and supported along the way.”
The bariatric team at Sts. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital have placed more than 3500 LapBand Systems, and the facility is a member of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Society Center for Excellence. Services are available at Sts. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital and Sts. Mary & Elizabeth Medical Plaza I in Southwest Louisville, and at Jewish Hospital East.