Our mission is twofold: to improve healthcare outcomes for Limited English Proficient Latino populations and to improve the academic and career outcomes of Heritage Speakers of Spanish. While these are two very big goals, IMPACT is up to the task: we have developed our program around years of research in health access disparities due to language barriers.
Language barriers affect millions of patients in the US health delivery system each year. Language concordant (i.e. bilingual) health providers and interpreters are known to improve access to quality care for patients who speak a minority language (citation). Nevertheless, the presence of bilingual professionals within the healthcare workforce remains small, and there is a shortage of qualified medical interpreters both nationally and at the local level. Language barriers thus remain a significant challenge in healthcare delivery. This challenge is projected to increase substantially in the coming years as rates of immigration to the U.S. consistently grow. According to the Pew Research Center (link to information), immigrants are expected to account for 88% of the US population growth between 2015 and 2065, and the Affordable Care Act has allowed health care access to greater numbers of Limited English Proficient (LEP) patients over the years.
IMPACT seeks to reduce language barriers in healthcare by supporting existing language resources in the local community: Heritage Spanish-speaking students. The 2018 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that Latinos made up 3.9% of the total population of the State of Ohio; the population between the ages of 15-24 accounted for nearly 20% of Ohio’s Latino population—a significant figure, considering it is only a 9 year range. In the same year, Latino youth accounted for 117,000 public school enrollments between grades 1-12. This large pool of students represents an opportunity to significantly alter the make-up of the healthcare workforce and to ensure greater access to language assistance services across the spectrum of healthcare delivery. In order to realize this opportunity, however, pipeline programs are needed to ensure that young Latinos with aspirations to become healthcare professionals receive the academic and financial support needed to successfully earn their place in the workforce. By building a strong workforce of trained, certified, and skilled native Spanish speakers, IMPACT hopes to see the long-term result of improved healthcare outcomes for Spanish-speaking LEP populations due to increased access to language concordant care.
According to the same survey cited above, the median income of Latino Ohioans is lower than that of all Ohioans. The median household income for Hispanics is nearly $45,000; for all Ohio households, the median household income is $56,000. Addressing this disparity involves not only increasing opportunities for education and professional training for Latino students, but also cultivating their beliefs in their own potential. It is well-documented that LEP and ELL students are overrepresented in Special Education classrooms, due to a misinterpretation of Limited English Proficiency as cognitive delay. The reality is that bilingualism not only does not inhibit cognitive function, but improves it: “students who speak multiple languages demonstrate greater cognitive flexibility and executive function” (Gandara). Many studies have shown some teachers’ prejudicial views of students who speak Spanish at home, and Spanish-speaking students are still affected by a U.S. history of suppressing Spanish-speaking in schools. Taken together, these factors cause many Heritage Speakers of Spanish to develop negative feelings toward their home language, or, at the very least, not recognize their bilingualism as a significant asset to their future career potential.
IMPACT helps students see the significant value in their Spanish-speaking ability and supports them in putting their skills to use in helping others. By engaging them in college-level courses that introduce them to medical Spanish, we support their use of the language skills they already possess to develop a career-specific vocabulary in their home language. Beyond language skill, IMPACT students represent a possibility of even more important contribution to healthcare interpreting and healthcare professions in general: their unique perspectives as part of multiple cultures them the cultural responsiveness necessary to provide truly language concordant care. Our students will gain access to CCP education, mentorship opportunities, and training to support their academic progress. Our role model events each semester will provide them with the opportunity to network, seek internships, and gain valuable career insights. Bilingual physicians and other health professionals will meet students to discuss their daily work routines, the value of Spanish in these routines, and their professional trajectory. IMPACT simultaneously attends to the linguistic, academic and financial needs of students in order to equip them to successfully enter and succeed in post-secondary health-related degree programs.