RWJF Grants Aims To End Language Barriers for Latinos
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation yesterday announced a $10 million grant program that will provide funds to investigate how to eliminate language barriers that adversely affect Latinos' access to health care. "Hablamos Juntos" -- We speak together -- will provide up to $1 million to as many as 10 health care organizations in communities where the Latino population has increased at least 50% from 1990 to 2000. Grantees must use the funds to design and test a variety of low-cost oral and printed translation systems that could be used by doctors, nurses and other personnel in the health care industry. Provider organizations, state Medicaid agencies, managed care organizations and local health departments may apply for the grants, but funding may not be used to provide patient care or to cover capital expenses. Also, grantees will be expected to commit matching funds of at least 25% of the grant (RWJF release, 12/12). Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, senior vice president of the foundation's health care group, said, "We think language barriers are a significant contributor to the racial and ethnic disparities that exist in treatment and outcomes. We need to start trying to solve this problem now" (RWJF release, 12/12). "This is not the ultimate or only solution, but it is one that must be in place to solve this embarrassing situation," she added (Darryl Drevna, California Healthline , 12/12).
A recent survey conducted for RWJF found that 19% of Latinos in areas with "fast-growing" Latino populations do not seek medical treatment because of language barriers. Based on interviews with 1,001 health care providers and 500 Spanish- speaking Latino adults, the survey found that 68% of patients who spoke only Spanish said "positive" health outcomes were difficult to obtain due to language barriers. The survey also found that patients and providers use a patchwork of informal methods to handle language difficulties. More than half of providers surveyed said they found a Spanish-speaking employee to help with interpretation, while 29% said they relied on the patient to bring a family or friend to assist. However, even when an interpreter of some kind is available, 65% of the patients were concerned they would not be understood. Patients also said they were less willing to trust a doctor to understand their medical needs if language barriers existed (RWJF release).