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Topics > Reducing Health Disparities Initiative > What We Are Doing > Health Centers Improving Linguistic Access for Patients

Health Centers Improving Linguistic Access for Patients

(L to R) Shannan Moulton, Concepcion Trevino James and Dianne Dunn-Bowie, Director of Ambulatory Care.

Our nine Health Centers have made great progress toward reducing health disparities by increasing linguistic access for non-English speaking patients. "Communication is key to interaction between providers and patients. When patients don't understand treatment instructions, there could be very adverse outcomes." said Shannan Moulton, Administrative Assistant II, Ambulatory Care Administration and a member of our Reducing Health Disparities Initiative (rhdi) Linguistic Access Committee.

New Translation Guidelines Spur Changes

When our revised language access policy was issued, emphasizing that minors cannot be used as interpreters, it was important to inform all staff about the policy and the resources available for interpretation. To increase awareness among staff about the need for linguistic access, a flier explaining how to use interpreter and translation services was distributed to staff at the health centers. Having friends and family interpret isn't a good idea because what they say could be influenced by their own attitude toward the patient or staff, according to Concepcion Trevino James, manager of the Bay Point Family Health Center.

New Techniques Help Protect Privacy

The doctor also may need to relay sensitive information that the patient may not want the relative or friend to know. In domestic abuse cases, the person who is interpreting could be the abuser. Bay Point Family Health Center has several bilingual nurses, and the staff also makes use of our contract with CyraCom International, a telephone interpretation service that includes two headsets, one for the patient and one for the doctor, so the communication is face-to-face while they listen to the interpreters. All health centers also have "I speak" cards, which has the phrase "I speak" in a variety of languages so that a patient can simply point at their language, Concepcion said. "We're trying to provide linguistic access because if we don't understand what patients are saying, we don't really know what they need and can't treat them appropriately," Concepcion said.

Involving the Community in Bay Point

Bay Point also has a program using Promotoras -- community women who speak Spanish and are specially trained as peer educators to conduct health education classes for the Latino population. Concepcion Trevino James is working with Chinyere Madawaki, manager of our North Richmond Center for Health, to bring the program to West County by June or July.

For information on the Health Centers' efforts, contact Shannan Moulton (, 925-370-5177).

Content provided by the Reducing Health Disparities Initiative.

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