Study: CA immigrants face big language barriers

Despite the region's huge immigrant population, southern California's healthcare providers aren't doing well in negotiating language barriers created by the region's complex mix of residents. A new study, which drew on census data from the year 2000, shows that most residents in five of Los Angeles County's eight service planning areas speak a language other than English. Top languages are Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Korean, Armenian, Vietnamese, Persian, Japanese and Russian. Another telling stat: In 2006, 29 percent of the county's public health system visits involved people with little English-language ability.

Despite the size of this population, and even existing federal law demanding that providers offer language assistance, patients frequently don't get what they need because of language problems, according to the Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Los Angeles, which ran the study. For example, county hospitals have hired nine full-time healthcare interpreters, in addition to existing added video and phone interpretation services, but this is the first time they've had live interpreters on staff. The study's backers noted that, generally speaking, area hospitals didn't seem to be aware that they were required to provide language assistance if they received federal funding.

To learn more about the study:
- read this Los Angeles Times article

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