Disaster preparedness for limited proficient communities: Medical interpreters as cultural brokers and gatekeepers

Department of Health Services, Box 357660, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-7660, USA.
Public Health Reports (Impact Factor: 1.55). 07/2007; 122(4):466-71.
Source: PubMed


Current disaster and emergency response planning does not adequately address the needs of limited English proficient (LEP) communities. The complexities of language and cultural differences pose serious barriers to first responders and emergency providers in reaching LEP communities. Medical interpreters are potential key cultural and linguistic linkages to LEP communities. This project established a collaborative partnership with the Interpreter Services department of Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Washington. In summer 2004, a pilot assessment of the training background and work experiences of medical interpreters was conducted that focused on training needs for disaster/emergency situations. Overall, medical interpreters identified a need for disaster preparedness training and education. Medical interpreters further reported that LEP communities are not prepared for disasters and that there is a need for culturally appropriate information and education.

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    • "Shiu-Thorton et al. made the grave prediction that “without clear and proactive planning to strategically meet the needs of limited English proficient (LEP) communities, disaster scenarios will have adverse effects for LEP groups, deepening the health disparities that already exist for those populations”. [23]. Similarly through qualitative interviews, medical interpreters found that preparedness was not a concept for many non-native English speakers—they simply did not discuss the potential for disasters or engage in community discussion concerning disaster preparedness [24]. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Natural disasters including hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, and fires often involve substantial physical and mental impacts on affected populations and thus are public health priorities. Limited research shows that vulnerable populations such as the low-income, socially isolated migrant and seasonal farmworkers (MSFW) are particularly susceptible to the effects of natural disasters. This research project assessed the awareness, perceived risk, and practices regarding disaster preparedness and response resources and identified barriers to utilization of community and government services during or after a natural disaster among Latino MSFWs' and their families. Qualitative (N = 21) focus groups (3) and quantitative (N = 57) survey methodology was implemented with Latino MSFWs temporarily residing in rural eastern North Carolina to assess perceived and actual risk for natural disasters. Hurricanes were a top concern among the sample population, many participants shared they lacked proper resources for an emergency (no emergency kit in the house, no evacuation plan, no home internet, a lack of knowledge of what should be included in an emergency kit, etc.). Transportation and language were found to be additional barriers. Emergency broadcasts in Spanish and text message alerts were identified by the population to be helpful for disaster alerts. FEMA, American Red Cross, local schools and the migrant clinic were trusted places for assistance and information. In summary, tailored materials, emergency alerts, text messages, and news coverage concerning disaster threats should be provided in the population's native language and when feasible delivered in a culturally appropriate mechanism such as "charlas" (talks) and brochures.
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    • "Low education and literacy make communicating appropriate response activities difficult for some populations. To combat this, messages can be tailored to persons with low literacy by using audio and visual aids and use multiple media to convey public health information, including radio, television, print, and the Internet (Andrulis et al., 2007; Chen et al., 2007; Fothergill et al., 1999; Shiu-Thornton et al., 2007). "
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