Providing Language Interpreter Services in Health Care Settings

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The United States continues to be a magnet for immigrants from around the world. Many recent immigrants have limited proficiency in English, which presents challenges for health care provision around the nation. Numerous studies have found that inadequate language services can negatively affect access to and quality of health care and may lead to serious health consequences. Numerous factors, including costs, lack of training, and the diversity of languages spoken, hinder the provision of such services. Still, a number of programs now under way around the country offer different models for improving access to interpreter services in health care settings and show promise for addressing this issue. Programs include those sponsored by state and local governments, managed care organizations, hospitals, community-based organizations, and educators. Some programs identify ways to develop reliable funding sources to pay for interpreters. Others document ways to increase the quantity of interpreters and the quality of the service they provide. In most instances, these efforts represent partnerships between government, providers, and communities, and hold great potential to be replicated elsewhere. The Language Access Services Kit describes federal requirements, sources of funding, and action steps for advocates and others working to ensure that those with limited English receive appropriate assistance in health care settings. To download the Language Services Action Kit, access the link under "Related Resources" on the right. The Fund report under Related Resources profiles a variety of programs around the country that provide interpretation services in health care settings, and also identifies federal, state, local, and private funding sources for interpretation services.

August 2004

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