Smithsonian Magazine: Millions of Americans Are Getting Lost in Translation During Hospital Visits

Smithsonian Magazine: Millions of Americans Are Getting Lost in Translation During Hospital Visits

Miscommunication due to language barriers is a growing health care issue, and technologies to aid interpretation are racing to keep up

By Adam Hoffman

The two-year-old Latina girl arrived at a Massachusetts emergency room in 1999 with intense shoulder pain. “Se pegó, se pegó,” her Spanish-speaking mother cried.

“If you have someone who is limited English proficient who comes in for services, you need to ensure that they have meaningful access to your programs,” says Mara Youdelman, managing attorney at the National Health Law Program in Washington, D.C. “You can’t turn them away because they don’t speak English. You can’t say, ‘Come back next Wednesday when my bilingual staff person is here.’ You can’t make them bring their own interpreters. These patients should have the same access as an English speaking patient does.”

The trouble is that Title VI did not come with associated funding. “There is no requirement that either the federal government or the state pay for the language services in the providers’ offices,” says Youdelman. Read the full article here. »

Related Content

For almost 50 years, the National Health Law Program has fought to expand access to quality health care to low-income individuals and underserved communities. Today we are pleased to launch a newly designed website for our future work to make health care a reality for all people. Please take time to peruse our new site, and sign up for our email updates to learn about us, watch the work we do, and become engaged.

Continue to site