community-engagement

What does Community Engagement Mean for Education?

Can you have community engagement without a clear idea on who the people are in your community? Despite good efforts, I’ve recently read about examples in the news where community members were excluded due to cultural or language access limitations. Read these examples and tell me. . .what went wrong?

Example #1: Teacher’s Strike in Los Angeles, CA

I heard a program on NPR about the recent teacher strike in Los Angeles. A Spanish-speaking father went to drop his son off at school, but there was no school. The district sent communication out, but it was not in Spanish. The father had no idea there was a strike going on. Once he got to the school, he realized quickly he was going to have to scramble for child care.

Although the student’s needs are being considered in the school district, in this case the family’s needs were not. I wonder if this father really feels like he is a part of the school community?

How can a school improve community engagement by proactively helping non-English speaking families take part in a meaningful way?

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Example #2: Measles Outbreak in Clark County, WA

My county is in the news recently, but not in a good way. There is a measles outbreak–more than 40 people have contracted this awful condition, which is completely avoidable with modern vaccinations. The public reaction has been very harsh. Even I found myself judging people saying things like “these anti-vaccination believers are crazy and causing all kinds of public health issues!”.

But then I read that the outbreak began in a local Slovak church. Clark County has a strong immigrant community. In fact, according to the US Census Bureau, 15% of the county speaks a language other than English at home. The church where the outbreak may have started does not teach that vaccinations are harmful; however, some immigrants and refuges are distrustful and choose not to get them. Per the article:

. . .some parents mistrust the vaccines. The mistrust may be a holdover from time spent living in the former Soviet Union.

That last thought made me much more sympathetic. Instead of meeting these people where they are, we write them off as “crazy anti-vaccinators”. Maybe we should be asking ourselves how we can provide better education and resources for people who are originally from other cultures?

What Lessons Can We Derive from these Examples to Improve Community Engagement?

  1. Immigrants/Refuges are part of our community.
  2. Limited-English speakers aren’t getting the same information as the native English speakers.
  3. An increased effort from educational and public organizations to provide meaningful access to information will benefit the whole community.
  4. Inclusion means providing information as well as listening to community members who have limited-English speaking abilities.
  5. There are support and tools to help you do this!

The good news is–we can help. By sitting down with one of our Coordinators, we can design a solution that will meet the needs of everyone in your community. Whether you need an interpreter at a town hall, access to translators, or building an informational website — we can help! Contact us today.

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medical-interpreter

Language Access in Health Care Creates Cultural Competence

I had the privilege this week of sitting down with some nursing students to talk about one of my favorite subjects, Language Access for health care! In the interview below, I discussed the meeting with my colleague, Jana Bitton, who is the Executive Director at Oregon Center for Nursing.

Here are a few of the things we discussed:

What are some challenges when providing language access?

As we spoke, Bitton observed that, in her experience, nurses are pretty good about using interpreters appropriately. Occasionally, a nurse may grab someone who is bi-lingual to provide interpretation for patients, not necessarily someone trained in medical translation for convenience.

There is also issues with cost, technology, and efficiency. All of these can be overcome, but are the right incentives in place?

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Do we need legislation?

Some are looking at adding legislation to make sure health systems are complying with providing translation and interpretation services.  Bitton likes the idea. She said that sometimes you do need to legislate things because there is not another reason to change behavior. However, there are some incentives built into current health care reforms in the form of a positive patient experience. The better the experience, the more funds that come to the organization. The relates directly to providing treatment and communication in the native languages of patients.

I adore about nurses. They are the people at the front line of the health care fight. They are seeing all levels of society and where the problems are. They are identifying any issues they see. Nurse-led effort to improve communication with patients is really important.

What are some current ideas that are working/not working?

There have been some efforts made to improve culturally competent discharge procedures. When discharging, you need to sit down and make sure they understand what just happened to them and what is the follow up.

In the interview, we heard about Providence Hood River Medical Center who recently realized that there were not a lot of cultural competence in place considering language, etc. They revamped the discharge procedure and made sure they had an interpreter there to ensure.

What do you think?

Do you have any thoughts about more challenges for providing language access in health care? Let us know by leaving a comment!

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