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. Nevertheless, the presence of bilingual professionals within the healthcare workforce remains small. At the same time, 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. The challenge, furthermore, is projected to increase substantially in the coming years. Flows of immigrants into the US are not expected to slow in the near future. According to the Pew Research Center, immigrants are expected to account for 88% of the US population increase between 2015 and 2065. Concurrently, the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act will yield greater numbers of limited proficient patients distributed across the continuum of care. In 2014, for example, Spanish dominant Latinos were the largest single group of enrollees during the open enrollment period.
This proposal describes a response to the challenge of language barriers in healthcare that identifies and cultivates existing language resources in the local community. In 2013, Latinos made up 3.5% of the total population of the State of Ohio; however, the population between the ages of 5-19 accounted for nearly 7% of the population of the same age. In the same year, Latino youth accounted for 68,493 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. This proposal describes a model program that leverages proven resources within Ohio State to develop a pipeline of Latino students into the health professions. It 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.
Interpreter training and college level coursework will be enhanced by role model events each semester. 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. Students will have the opportunity to ask questions and will gain insight into multiple career pathways.