Written By: Phu Phan, Tina Tran, and Jessica Woodward, First-Year Student Pharmacists
As members of the School of Pharmacy’s American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medicine Safety committee at the Universities at Shady Grove campus, we work in collaboration with our chair and co-chair – third-year student pharmacist Vee Do and second-year student pharmacist Quynh Nguyen, respectively – to raise awareness about OTC medication safety in our local community. Since 2015, other members of our committee have hosted outreach events at a variety of locations, including a middle school, health fair, and library.
To help our team deliver our message to an even wider audience, Quynh devised the idea to bring our medication safety lesson to a Vietnamese Sunday School. Vee worked with administrators at the school to ensure that the session went smoothly, while Phu, who served as the project coordinator, prepared the lesson plan and activity. All of our efforts culminated on March 19, when the five of us hosted our committee’s first-ever Sunday school event to bring awareness about medication safety to a particularly vulnerable population: first generation Vietnamese Americans.
Understanding the Linguistic Challenge
Because many members involved with our organization have immigrated to the United States from other countries themselves, we understand the challenge posed by the language barrier that many immigrants often have to overcome to be an active member of American society. For older generations, the language barrier can pose an even greater obstacle, with some individuals attending free classes offered by local nonprofit organizations to try to learn English and others deciding to forego learning the language for a wide range of personal reasons. However, a problem arises when the first generation of Vietnamese Americans born in the United States – who are able to speak fluent English – cannot communicate fluently with their parents and grandparents in their native Vietnamese.
Making Medication Safety Fun for Children
To help raise awareness about medication safety among Vietnamese families in our community, we created a short bilingual lesson and activity to highlight safe medication use. Our presentation targeted young children born in the United States to parents who had emigrated from Vietnam, allowing us to reach a local minority community by leveraging the bilingual (English-Vietnamese) communication skills possessed by multiple members of our committee. More than 40 children from the fifth grade at a Vietnamese Sunday school in Silver Spring, Md., attended our presentation, which addressed topics such as:
- Differences between prescription and OTC medications
- How to read and understand medication labels
- How to safely store and dispose of medications
We incorporated as much Vietnamese into the lesson as possible, reviewing our presentation slides first in Vietnamese and then in English. We also engaged the class in a bilingual game of Jeopardy, which quizzed the students on the topics covered in the presentation, with an emphasis on how to use acetaminophen (Tylenol) safely and how to contact the Maryland Poison Center for both emergency and non-emergency situations. The students received double points if they correctly answered the questions in both English and Vietnamese.
Imparting Lifelong Lessons about Health
We hope that the children who attended our event had a great time, while also learning some useful health information that they can share with their families in both English and Vietnamese. Not only was our goal to enhance their knowledge and keep them safe when taking medications, but also to provide them with the knowledge necessary to ensure the safety of their parents, caregivers, and other family members who might not be able to read English. The children were very excited and engaged in the activity, seeming to grasp the concepts and pick up some new terms in Vietnamese, which makes us feel as though we accomplished our goals and more. We had a wonderful time preparing and presenting this project, and look forward to hosting future outreach events in our community.