Overcoming language barriers to health care is crucial for the well being of millions of immigrants in the United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau News, as of July 1, 2006, Hispanics remained the largest minority group with 44 million, accounting for about 14.8 percent of the total population. The Hispanic/ Latino population of the United States was greater than 28 million, exceeding the total population of all but six Spanish-speaking countries (). 32 million people in this country, speak a language other than English at home.
[...] In order to alleviate some of these ethnic and language barriers it is crucial that the health care workforce improve their racial and ethnic diversity. One possible step could be to promote more opportunities for high-quality educational opportunities in college and medical schools for low-income minority student. As displayed in Figure U.S. Physicians by Race and Ethnicity African Americans and Hispanic/ Latinos make up only 3.3 percent and 3.5 percent of the physician workforce. In addition, Native American constitutes just 0.3 percent. [...]
[...] Health care providers need to be aware of racial and ethnic disparities in health care. It is in the health care provider's best interest. All future and even current health care providers should be required to receive some form of cross-cultural education. According to the Institute of Medicine, cross-cultural education will “enhance health professionals' awareness of how cultural and social factors influence health care, while providing methods to obtain, negotiate and manage this information clinically once it is obtained.” By being provided with possible methods to obtain, negotiate and manage the information once it is obtained, like the Institute of Medicine suggested, will translate into the outcome of the patient's care. [...]
[...] A review of the literature revealed a consistent and major difference in patients' understanding of their conditions and compliance with treatment due to language barriers. The result from these studies finds that communication is a key aspect in patient adherence to the treatment plan. The language barrier may also result in failure to protect the patient's confidentiality, or to obtain informed consent. Clinical and health research services tend to under represent ethnic minorities; especially for those who are not proficient in an official language. [...]
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