Do You Understand? Reach out to Patients With Limited English Proficiency
As you plan your EMS Week activities, remember that effective communication with patients and their families in your community may mean developing written materials in languages other than English.
When planning outreach to patients with limited English proficiency, identify the target audience for any written materials, including literacy level, cultural concepts, language and regional language variations.
Then determine what kinds of healthcare information these patient populations may need. For example, perhaps you have a large Vietnamese and Laotian community in which many elderly parents live at home in multigenerational families. These groups might need fall prevention materials in Hmong. Information about other topics, such as car seat safety, cross cultural lines and should be made available in a variety of languages.
EMS managers have several options for obtaining healthcare information in languages other than English. You can:
Translate existing written materials from English to other languages. You may have bilingual medics in your organization who are willing to translate healthcare materials, or you can partner with community organizations serving non-English speaking populations;
Download written materials in other languages from other reputable healthcare organizations to meet your patients' needs. See the Resources box below for some Web sites that offer free healthcare material in languages other than English;
Develop your own written materials in other languages. Although the most labor-intensive option, creating written materials in the language of the intended audience is preferable to translating existing documents, as your own materials will more accurately reflect the values and beliefs of your EMS service, as well as the audience. In addition, creating new materials can prevent content misunderstanding when words in English do not exist in other languages.
21 Million Americans Have Limited English Proficiency
Forty-seven million Americans, or 18 percent of the us population, speak a language other than english at home. twenty-one million Americans, or 8 percent of the population, have limited English proficiency.
In a study of 1,100 families conducted in and around Boston among parents who said they speak English "not at all," 27 percent of their children were uninsured. among parents who speak English "very well," only 6 percent of their children were uninsured.
For six of nine access barriers studied, parents with limited English proficiency were less likely than English-proficient parents to bring their children to a doctor for needed care, making it more likely that these children would be seen by EMS in the event of a serious illness.
Source: Limited English Proficiency, Primary Language Spoken at Home, and Disparities in Children's Health and Healthcare: How Language Barriers are Measured, Glenn Flores, M.D., Milagros Abreu, M.D., Sandra C. Tomany-Korman, M.S., Public Health Reports, July/August 2005, 120 (4): 418–30
Resources for Healthcare Information in Languages Other Than English
Health Care Language Services Implementation Guide
Office of Minority Health
AHA Patient Education Materials in Spanish
National Alliance for Hispanic Health
The 24 Languages Project
Select Patient Information in Asian Languages
Ideas for a Successful EMS Week