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In the language of their heart Celebrating access to Spanish translation in healthcare on Cinco de Mayo

Natasha Curtis

Natasha Curtis

Cinco de Mayo is Spanish for May 5. It’s a day to commemorate the freedom and democracy earned during the Civil War.

What better day than May 5 to celebrate the strides we are making to help Spanish-speaking families access healthcare?

About 6.5% of the population in Ohio speaks a language other than English at home, and 3.2% of the total population in Ohio is Hispanic or has Latino Origin, according to 2010 census data.

How does this play out in our patient population?

So far, during the first quarter of 2013, Akron Children’s has provided 54.2 hours of over-the-phone interpreting services to Spanish-speaking families, and about 450 hours of face-to-face interpreting services.

Let’s contrast this with our 2011 and 2012 statistics. In 2011, we provided about 750 hours of face-to-face interpreting services in Spanish, compared to 1,200 hours in in 2012.

As the statistics indicate, we are seeing more Spanish-speaking families and we’re advancing in our journey of providing culturally and linguistically appropriate care to meet their needs.

Many articles in KidsHealth are available in Spanish.

Many articles in KidsHealth have been translated into Spanish. Click the photo above to view all the articles available in Spanish.

For instance, this year we certified our first bilingual provider in Spanish. In order to ensure safe and effective communication, employees who report bilingualism in a second language must pass a proficiency test to prove that their level of proficiency enables them to communicate effectively and safely in the healthcare setting.

Several other providers are currently lined up to take the test.

After obtaining passing scores, providers are able to interact directly with patients and families (i.e., without using an interpreter) in their native language — the language of their heart.

I personally love this quote from Nelson Mandela: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Since the beginning of last year, we’ve also translated many documents into Spanish and engaged in “transcreation” projects. These projects are not only culturally sensitive in nature but they also take into account the specific needs and literacy of the families we serve.

Some of our initiatives have made a significant impact in the care coordination for families who see multiple providers in different locations.

Our Language Access Services program contracts directly with a qualified Spanish interpreter, Liz Scheiner, who also helps patient families navigate the complexities of the U.S. healthcare system and assists staff with navigation and coordination.

In addition, we equip families who speak Spanish with a DIAL system whereby they can call into the hospital using a special toll-free number that connects them to a Spanish-speaking operator, who in turn connects them to our hospital and serves as their interpreter.

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