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Are Healthcare Inequities Intensified by Language Barriers?

September 22, 2021


In many areas of our country, patients suffering from coronavirus that were not primary-language speakers generally fared worse than those who spoke fluent English. According to a study published by the National Institute of Health (NIH), since the novel virus was identified during the early months of 2019, racial and ethnic health inequities have been magnified due to the disease. However, it is not the first time that language barriers have been recognized as a source of concern for minority communities whose communication needs were not well served by the majority language. Although there is no single explanation as to why communication issues can be si complex and opaque, the most apparent reason is that healthcare is generally delivered in English. Moreover, it is easy to see how emergency situations involving respiratory distress and end-of-life care can add to the disparity for millions of foreign-born Americans due to a lack of accurate translations.

Cultural Reasons Do Exist Beyond Language Disparities

Even though our nation’s original settlers were mostly English-speaking, America’s non-English speaking populations have grown substantially over time. The net effect has been broader cultural disparities as immigrant groups continued to form communities of their own, in which they have been able to speak in their native tongue, honor age old traditions, and maintain cultural influences that make them comfortable going about their daily lives. So, the problem of language disparities in providing universal healthcare to Americans actually goes against our founding principles of not tolerating cultural inequities. After all, the new world was founded on the tenets of equality, justice, freedom, and unity for all. It has long been said that what makes America great is our diverse mix of values, cultures and… yes, languages.

Although we are often reluctant to admit it, America depends heavily on immigrant labor. So, it would be foolish not to take full advantage of the opportunity of providing the world’s best care across all cultures and languages. After all, the migration of foreign-born populations into the United States is expected to continue for decades to come. Nonetheless, the key to transforming our outdated English-language health care system into one that is fully accessible to Americans (whose first language is not English) is a challenge that can be best addressed by linguistic engineers who have the experience and expertise to provide highly accurate translations. Accounting for cultural nuances can be tricky, but simply stated it is our linguists who are better suited for assisting healthcare providers in delivering quality care effectively across all language barriers.

Welcome to ProLingo’s Interpretation Revolution

Long-standing systemic social, economic, and environmental inequities in the United States have put communities of color at increased risk for exposure to infectious diseases, according to a PubMed.gov report. However, three key opportunities to improve health equity for linguistic-minority populations, include patient and clinician language data collection in health systems, linguistically and culturally appropriate public health messaging, and health care workforce communication skills education. Going forward, public health efforts in areas with high rates of communicable diseases could benefit from longer-term plans that include the simple use of remote simultaneous interpretation (RSI) apps that can deliver the performance and quality of real-time language translation. ProLingo has decades of experience in providing secure and portable answers for delivering inclusion excellence in multilingual environments, and our remote interpretation applications feature high quality video and audio, easy setup, an ability to record without additional equipment, white labeling for your logo, and 24/7 tech support. To learn more, you can connect with us using our convenient contact form or by phone as well as via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

 

Photo courtesy of kosmonova Shutterstock.com

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I am writing today to compliment the exceptional customer service shown by your team members. Our organization recently hosted a group of high profile religious leaders from North, Central and south America for which English to Spanish translation was a necessity. My entire staff and I were impressed by the quality of ProLingo's equipment, pricing and most importantly their employees. I am looking forward to working with ProLingo again in the future and will gladly recommend your services to others.
- S. Caprani, Episcopal Church of Central Florida

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