Non-Native English Speakers Face Numerous Linguistic, Cultural Barriers to Medical Care

A recent UC-Berkeley study found that many non-native English speakers have difficulty communicating with their health care providers. Researchers say such miscommunications can diminish health care efficiency and quality.

In California, about one in five residents are non-native English speakers.

In a California Healthline Special Report by Kelly Wilkinson, experts discussed strategies to reduce linguistic and cultural barriers to health care.

The Special Report includes comments from:

  • Mary Masland, associate researcher at UC-Berkeley;
  • Rachel Mutrux, director of the Missouri Telehealth Network;
  • Margaret O’Kane, president of the National Committee for Quality Assurance; and
  • Gayle Tang, director for national linguistic and cultural programs at Kaiser Permanente.

Experts suggest that policymakers should work to address health access issues by investing in telemedicine-based interpretation services. They also recommend that states should work to recruit bilingual medical professionals (Wilkinson, California Healthline, 10/30).

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