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Overcoming language barriers for patients with limited English proficiency: Training community health workers as medical interpreters

Kim B. Kim, PhD1, Hae-Ra Han, RN, PhD2, Jeonghee Kang2, Moonju Ko, RN, MSN1, and Miyong Kim, RN, PhD2. (1) Korean Resource Center, 3201 Rogers Ave., Suite 203, Ellicott City, MD 21043, 410-203-1111, kbkim@korean-center.org, (2) School of Nursing, Johns Hopkins University, 525 N. Wolfe St., Baltimore, MD 21205

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act stipulates that any agency receiving federal funding (virtually all health care organizations) needs to provide interpreters for persons of limited English proficiency. Many recent immigrant populations, such as Korean Americans (KA) lack English proficiency, and face particularly disconcerting obstacles in obtaining appropriate and efficient health care. A series of community surveys and focus group meetings conducted by the Korean Resource Center (community-based organization), in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins University Korean American Health Research Initiative, revealed a strong and urgent need for adequate interpretive services for KA in Maryland. In response to this significant problem, the KRC-Hopkins team developed a program to train indigenous bilingual speakers who also serve as community health workers to be medical interpreters. Total of 12 volunteers underwent our two-day training sessions. Training topics included: 1) code of ethics, 2) principles of medical interpretation, 3) medical terminology, and 4) cultural competency. While conducting the medical interpreter training, this unprecedented program was publicized to mainstream care providers as well as to the KA community. Already, five agencies have utilized the service to meet the needs of 19 KA patients in less than one year since the programís inception. We have successfully demonstrated ways to overcome language barriers in the KA community and facilitate effective communication between care providers and KA patients with limited language proficiency. This program has been gaining much attention throughout the healthcare and KA communities and expectedly, more agencies and KA will benefit in its second year.

Learning Objectives:

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Lessons from the Field: Community Health Worker Training and Program Evaluation

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA