Massachusetts Medical Interpreter Services are ‘Models’ for Nation
PRI's "The World" Sept. 18 featured a report on how Massachusetts has responded to federal and state medical interpreting laws and developed services for non-English-speaking and limited-English-speaking patients that are "models" for the nation (Kaplan, "The World," PRI, 9/18). The federal mandate comes from federal officials' and health advocates' interpretation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- which prohibits discrimination based on national origin, among other things -- to mean that medical facilities receiving federal funds must provide services to all patients equally. In August 2000, former President Clinton signed an executive order requiring all federally funded medical facilities to develop written policies on how they would serve patients who speak little or no English (California Healthline, 7/23). According to PRI, Massachusetts has "one of the toughest medical interpreting laws in the country" and is "playing a leading role" in training non-native English speakers to become medical interpreters. PRI reports that "as immigrants spread out into communities," medical interpreting services in Massachusetts "embraced a sea-change of thinking on immigrants, health care and communication." A 10-month medical interpreter certificate program offered by Cambridge College is part of a "new effort to cultivate a more nuanced role for the medical interpreter." The program "draws heavily from the local immigrant community." Students must speak English and one other language: Spanish, Haitian, Creole, Portuguese or Vietnamese. Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese and Hindi will be added soon. Courses cover medical terminology, procedures and pharmaceuticals, as well as how to help other immigrants "navigate the health care world's many bureaucratic quirks" ("The World," PRI, 9/18). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.