Language barriers keep millions away from good health care

Robert Preidt. By
healthday reporter

WEDNESDAY, July 7, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Because of language barriers, 25 million Spanish speakers get nearly a third less Health care Compared to other Americans, a large study of American adults shows.

An analysis of data from a federal survey of more than 120,000 adults showed that overall health care use (measured by spending) was 35% to 42% lower among those whose primary language was Spanish compared to English speakers is.

Senior study author Dr. Danny McCormick, an associate professor and primary care physician at Harvard Medical School, said: “Very few doctors or nurses speak Spanish, and many hospitals and clinics have inadequate interpretation and translation services, despite federal mandate requirements. ” Cambridge Health Alliance. “But most insurers will not cover the cost of interpreters, and federal enforcement of the language mandate has been lax.”

The study found that Spanish speakers had 36% fewer outpatient visits; 48% fewer prescription drugs; and 35% fewer outpatient visits. Compared to Hispanic adults who were proficient in English, Spanish speakers also had 37% fewer prescription drugs.

Spanish speakers also had a lower number of emergency department visits and hospitalizations, according to findings published in the July issue of the journal health matters.

Even when it comes to life saving services like colon cancer Screening, Spanish speakers are less likely to get them, the researchers reported.

Despite federal laws that mandate interpreter services for hospitals and other agencies to receive federal funding and ban discrimination based on national origin, language-based gaps in health care have not narrowed over the past 20 years.

For example, the gap in health care expenditures between Spanish-speaking and non-Hispanic adults increased from $2,156 in 1999 to $3,608 in 2018, even after accounting for inflation.

Lead author Dr. Jessica Himmelstein said pandemic problems have escalated.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused great havoc in the Hispanic community, especially those with limited English proficiency,” said Himmelstein, a research fellow at Harvard Medical School and a physician at the Cambridge Health Alliance. “The pandemic has been a major cause of the failure of our healthcare system to meet the needs of patients who face language barriers.”

more information

US National Institute on Minority Health and Health Inequalities Offers Health information in multiple languages.

Source: Harvard Medical School/Cambridge Health Alliance, news release, July 6, 2021


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