Archive for September 28, 2011

Study reveals medical translation a key to pharma quality in Puerto Rico

One wonders how often some need to relearn the unimpeachable fact that accurate, professional-quality translation is critical not only to effective communication, but in some cases even to one’s very health.

A recent study published in the Journal of Operations Management underscores once more this fact and what is put at risk when short shrift is given to translation. The investigation sought to answer a fundamental question: Does offshore production of pharmaceuticals pose a heightened quality risk compared to drugs produced in the U.S.? And if so, what are the factors at the root of the increased risk?

The study compared the relative safety of those drugs manufactured in a sample of 30 pairs of regulated drug manufacturing plants in the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico matched by parent firm and by product standard industrial code.

Sadly, the results are not encouraging. The authors discovered that the Puerto Rican plants operate with a “significantly higher quality risk” than matching plants in the mainland U.S. operated by the same firm.

It will come as little surprise to medical translators that language plays a key role in this breakdown in quality. As the study’s lead author points out, “We believe the quality differences we found in Puerto Rican plants were driven by challenges in transferring knowledge from headquarters to the plant, due to cultural differences, primarily differences in language and values.”

Thank you to the blog Medical Translation Insight for sharing the study. The complete results are available for purchase at the Science Direct website.

Till next time,

Health reform must include language and culture awareness to succeed

Among its many goals, health reform in the U.S. is seeking to ensure that Hispanics, a historically underserved population, have greater access to health insurance. But as is so often the case when dealing with non-English-speaking communities, failure to address mitigating cultural considerations can undermine the prospect of otherwise well-meaning efforts.

For today’s reform to truly benefit those it intends to serve among the Hispanic population, steps must be taken to ensure that such offerings are clearly understood. Such programs can be a challenge for English-speaking audiences familiar with insurance and how it works. The same is likely to be doubly true of Hispanics, especially those more recently arrived in the country.

Questions as fundamental as what the program offers, who is eligible, and how to enroll must be filtered through a keen understanding of Spanish and the broader Hispanic culture. Even the tagline of the program can be a stumbling block, as Regence discovered. When the line “Together we can take charge” failed to resonate,” further exploration among Hispanics led to the modification “Juntos podemos” or “Together we can.” This line proved to be more culturally meaningful.

There are other issues to bear in mind as health reform proceeds. The most challenging may be fear. Concerned about possible impact on immigration status, Hispanics are often reluctant to participate in government-sponsored programs. A sensitivity to this obstacle must be included in the development of messaging and materials.

Much work has gone into developing a healthcare system that addresses those who have heretofore been excluded or at the very least overlooked. Now that we are attempting to resolve these stubborn issues it would be tragic, both for the work already done and for those who stand to benefit, if we failed to address the necessary language and culture issues as well.

Till next time,