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In the right words: addressing language and culture in providing health care.

Abstract

As part of its continuing mission to serve trustees, executives, and staff of health foundations and corporate giving programs, Grantmakers In Health (GIH) convened a group of experts from philanthropy, research, health care practice, and policy on April 4, 2003, to discuss the roles of language and culture in providing effective health care. During this Issue Dialogue, In the Right Words: Addressing Language and Culture in Providing Health Care, health grantmakers and experts from policy and practice participated in an open exchange of ideas and perspectives on language access and heard from fellow grantmakers who are funding innovative programs in this area. Together they explored ways to effectively support comprehensive language services, including the use of interpreters and translation of written materials. This Issue Brief synthesizes key points from the day's discussion with a background paper previously prepared for Issue Dialogue participants. It focuses on the challenges and opportunities involved with ensuring language access for the growing number of people who require it. Sections include: recent immigration trends and demographic changes; the effect of language barriers on health outcomes and health care processes; laws and policies regarding the provision of language services to patients, including an overview of public financing mechanisms; strategies for improving language access, including enhancing access in delivery settings, promoting advocacy and policy change, improving interpreter training, and advancing research; and roles for foundations in supporting improved language access, including examples of current activities. The Issue Dialogue focused mainly on activities and programs that ensure linguistic access to health care for all patients. Although language and culture are clearly inseparable, a full exploration of the field of cultural competence and initiatives that promote its application to the health care setting are beyond the scope of this Issue Brief. The day's discussion did, however, raise provocative issues of culture that are reflected throughout this report.

PMID:
14535297
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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