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Although the term “disparities” often is interpreted to mean racial or ethnic disparities, many dimensions of disparity exist in the United States, particularly in health. If a health outcome is seen in a greater or lesser extent between populations, there is disparity. Healthcare Translations and addressing disparities are one our main areas of expertise.

Let’s look at some health disparities in different groups:

  • Hispanics have lower deaths than Whites from most of the 10 leading causes of deaths.
  • Approximately 17% of all Latinos in the U.S. have diabetes. In comparison, the prevalence of diabetes in the white population is approximately 8%
  • American Indians/Alaskan Natives have a higher risk for developing diabetes than other cultural group.

Hispanic subgroups healthcare disparitiesThere are disparities among different cultural groups as well.  With Hispanics, 66% more Puerto Ricans smoke than Mexicans.

Language barriers in healthcare are associated with decreases in quality of care, safety, and patient and clinician satisfaction and contribute to health disparities, even among people with insurance. The Federal Government has issued 14 culturally and linguistically appropriate services standards. These standards, which are directed at healthcare organizations, are also encouraged for individual providers to improve accessibility of their practices.

Individuals should be able to fully comprehend how to access care and services, what their treatment options are, and what they need to get and stay well. Ensuring that care and services are understandable is particularly important to those who have limited English proficiency, are deaf or hard of hearing, or may have difficulty comprehending the health care system and its terminology. This is where translation in healthcare can come in.

Cultural and linguistic competency allows providers to navigate the cultural and linguistic factors that affect trust, rapport, communication, and adherence (Ngo-Metzger et al., 2006).

The following are some cultural competency challenges that health care providers face:

  • Recognizing clinical/health related differences in individuals depending upon ethnicity/culture.
  • Understanding communication differences that may include the need for an interpreter; how to explain certain disease states; how to ask about topics that are considered taboo, etc.
  • Respecting different belief systems with regards to ethics. This can challenge firmly held western beliefs.
  • Encouraging trust/respect so that an individual feels comfortable being honest about their health and practices. Some cultures will respect clinical authority so much that they will agree with the clinician with the intent to provide ‘acceptable’ answers.

We work with healthcare communication agencies, healthcare plans and specialized translators in healthcare to provide healthcare translations. In addition, we also provide plain language writing in English for Medicaid/Medicare populations so we become a bridge for these organizations that look for ways to reduce health disparities.

We are also working with human resource groups that want to address this in their health and wellness programs.  We work with them to write different content for their different cultural groups – content that will speak to that group and encourage them to enroll in the program.  Our services of human resources translation and our knowledge of health literacy allows us to consult with the client on specific areas to address and understand their challenges and how to address them with linguistic and cultural competency.

You can read more about our specific work on healthcare translation with Novo Nordisk on diabetes or our work with Gilead on healthcare translation and patient education with hepatitis B.