The University Record, May 20, 1997

U-M health clinic offers bilingual services
to area Japanese

By Mary Nehls-Frumkin
News and Information Servcies

In an effort to assist Japanese families living in southeastern Michigan, a family practice team at a Medical Center health clinic offers prenatal classes and primary care health services to Japanese parents through the Japanese Health Initiative.

The departments of Family Practice and Internal Medicine developed the Japanese Health Initiative three years ago to provide complete health care services to the more than 6,000 who live in the Detroit/Ann Arbor area.

Seonae Yeo, assistant professor of nursing, teaches the prenatal class, and she asks her clients to participate as a couple, a departure from the norm for many Japanese men, she says.

"From the beginning, I have emphasized the importance of two people's involvement. I ask them to come to the class together," Yeo says. "In Japan, very few fathers ever enter the delivery room. I ask each couple to come back once after the baby's birth, and at that time, I ask the father to share his experience with everybody, particularly with other husbands."

Yeo says the new fathers are quiet and express their experiences in few words, such as "I was moved," "Now I know how difficult it is for women to give birth," and "I respect my wife for that."

In addition, says Yeo, when a baby needs diapering, it is usually the father who shows great skill at changing a diaper. "These are new phenomena to Japanese," she notes.

The prenatal sessions are held 10:30-noon one Saturday a month at the East Ann Arbor Clinic, 4260 Plymouth Road.

The Japanese Health Initiative includes a network of generalists and specialists familiar with Japanese language and culture, and was spearheaded by Michael D. Fetters, a Medical Center faculty member fluent in Japanese. Other Japanese Health Initiative staffers are Dolores Mendelow, a pediatrician at East Ann Arbor Health Center; Mariko Foulk, who provides counseling services; and bilingual receptionist Matsuyo Portnow.