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,
Steve
viaLanguage


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