For older Japanese-Americans who struggle with severe illness, getting to the doctor while overcoming language and cultural barriers can be especially tough.

That’s why Providence Health & Services Southern California has joined forces with Keiro, a downtown-based nonprofit social service agency, to offer the nation’s first palliative care targeted for Japanese-Americans.

The three-year partnership, announced Wednesday, would provide medical and support services to serve an estimated 70,000 Japanese-American seniors and Japanese-speaking adults in Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties.

The Keiro-Providence Whole Person Care Program will address patient issues from pain to transportation to medical, spiritual and other support. It will be available regardless of ability to pay, the organizations said.

Providence Health & Services SoCal, which operates six Catholic hospitals in the region, will provide the medical care with doctors and nurses fluent in Japanese.

Keiro, which has served the Japanese community in Southern California for a half century and committed $1.7 million to the program, will provide the social services.

Together, officials said they aim to improve the quality of life for older Japanese-American adults by allowing them to stay in their homes while reducing emergency room and hospital admissions.

Health business reporter Dana Bartholomew can be reached at dbartholomew@labusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @_DanaBart.