Brooklyn Park’s Arthur Biah helps bridge a cultural divide
Arthur Biah and his wife grew up in rural Liberia and a trip back to their home culture changed their lives.
They met a young man who was 25 and was crawling instead of walking. The man’s family told Biah that the man had fallen out of a tree, become injured, and the family couldn’t afford the medical care needed. This resonated with Biah and his wife, both of whom are medical health professionals. They helped the young man have surgery, but then learned the young man died because he didn’t have proper post-surgical care.
“We were really angry,” says Biah. “My wife said, what we can do is try to help the hospitals in rural areas so something like this doesn’t happen.”
So the couple started the Liberian Health Initiative and began work to improve healthcare there through training and equipment. But shortly thereafter, Ebola hit the country hard. As they mobilized to help, they had another reckoning.
Shifting focus to Home
“We realized that we are focusing on Liberia and it looks like there’s need in the community here,” says Biah.
So the couple started work reaching out to Liberians and Africans in the northwest suburbs in an effort to educate them about diseases like diabetes or hypertension. They found that sometimes proper care wasn’t communicated correctly.
“We found with chronic diseases like diabetes or hypertension, people did not have knowledge about what to do,” says Biah.
For example, when healthcare professionals talked about carbs, sometimes the people wouldn’t realize what carbs were. When professionals used examples of foods to eat or not eat, often those foods weren’t culturally appropriate for Liberians or West African culture.
“People do not know,” says Biah. “We try to take that and translate that in a cultural way.”
They have partnered with healthcare companies, like Allina Health, to offer health fairs to educate people. They try to organize for transportation and childcare, so people are free to learn more. It’s been a work in progress, but Biah feels confident people are benefitting from his volunteerism.