Have you ever wondered why not speaking English can do you wrong? Not knowing certain languages are destroying your health. Language barriers are preventing our access to healthcare because there are lack of communication, patients and healthcare providers unable to establish trustworthy relationships, and with the lack of research on the topic of language barriers.

Language barriers prevent healthcare providers and patients to establish trust; this is known as a lack of cultural competency. In “Research Examines Impact of Language Barriers on Patient Outcomes in Home Health Care” by News Medical Life Science, regarded as one of the leading global online medical news and health information distributors. They stated, ”Moreover, it leads to the loss of an opportunity of the healthcare provider and the patient to connect on a level beyond the spoken words, where smiles and warm gestures can establish trust and rapport” (News Medical Life Science). This addresses that one on one communication with the patient and healthcare providers can let them establish trust through smiles and warm gestures. Having a translator being there will be a wall preventing trust to be build. Not only that, with the growing diversity in the United States, according to “Addendum to Comments on CMS’ Proposed Rule on Medicaid Eligibility Changes under the Affordable Care Act of 2010” by Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families (CCF) which is an independent, nonpartisan policy and research center whose mission is to expand and improve health coverage for America’s children and families. They pointed out that, “There are an estimated 3.5 to 5.5 million children living in mixed-status immigrant households”(Georgetown University Health Policy Institute). This confirms that the population of multilingual households are growing, so the diversity in healthcare should too. With there being more bilingual doctors and healthcare providers, there would be more trust with patients.

Besides the trust of the provider and the patient, there is just a lack of communication. In “Language Barriers: Challenges to Quality Healthcare” by Michael M. Wolz, who has written books such as “Dermatologic Surgery.” Wolz wrote, “The physical presence of a translator leads to even more complexities when the translator is not a professional interpreter but a family member of the patient” (Wolz). When a translator is not present, family members came into play and translate for the doctors. Not knowing all the medical terms, the complexity of providing the wrong information will happen.This connects to one of my interviewee when he was telling a story about an experience in the emergency room. Stephen DeLong is a voice from our community. He comments, “The doctor did not speak spanish and they actually did not have any nurses on staff that speak spanish either”(DeLong). Even though Oakland is so diverse, there are not basic translators provided in the hospital at Emeryville for the second most spoken language in California. It is unacceptable for a hospital to not have a person that speaks spanish when a hospital is supposed to provide good service for everyone in need. This proves that there is a lack of communication in the healthcare community, even in a diverse state, such as California, that affects the health of patients.

Finally, there is a lack of research on language barriers in healthcare. People do not understand the importance of having a bilingual healthcare provider. In the article called

In Home Healthcare, Providers That Do Not Communicate in Patients’ Native Language Negatively Affect Care Outcomes” by Christopher James quoted, “The lack of research about the impact of language barriers on patient outcomes in home health care represents a point of vulnerability for LEP (Limited English Proficiency) patients as they transition through the healthcare system”(Dr. Squires). Dr. Squires is one of the very few people that did research on language barriers on top of having FAAN, PhD, RN on her resume which are degrees she have earned for here profession. Even in home health care outside of hospital such as in home healthcare is even struggling with language barriers. This just tends to show what our healthcare system is still lacking even with all our medical achievements. Without the understanding of the message that is provided by the health providers to the community, then the discovery is as good as useless. That is why communication is key and we should get rid of any language barriers and miscommunications there might be.

Some might argue that Oakland is already so diverse that language barriers are not that big of a deal. One of my interviewees, Bryant Sutton, thinks that Oakland is incredibly diverse, he has never encountered anyone not being able to get what they wanted because of language barriers. Mr. Sutton is someone from the community that agreed to this interview to use his voice in a helpful way. He clarifies, “I’ve never seen it happening it’s where someone have the problem where they couldn’t get exactly what they want because they didn’t speak english” (Sutton). This demonstrates the lack of knowledge about language barriers since he has not heard of it. Miscommunication is not just about getting what they want but also about being able to understand what they are receiving and prevent full understanding. Moreover, in an article called “Overcoming Language Barriers in Healthcare: A Protocol for Investigating Safe and Effective Communication When Patients or Clinicians Use a Second Language” by Renata F. I. Meuter, Cindy Gallois, Norman S. Segalowitz, Andrew G. Ryder, and Julia Hocking it talked about an experiment they performed on patients. They announced, “Address specific aspects of language barriers in healthcare communication in a way that will inform the design of language training programs for clinicians” (Meuter, Gallios, Segalowitz, Ryder, and Hocking).They work in the medical field and graduated from top university. Also, the research they have done was approved by the government. This quote shows that clinicians need training programs to address the language barriers that are present in healthcare. Connecting back to the quote from Bryant Sutton, it shows how serious of a problem language barriers have become. The currency of this quote is from 2015 proving that just because people do not know about the problem does not mean that it is not happening.

In conclusion, language barriers are preventing our access to healthcare. With the lack of research to help prevent the miscommunication between patient and healthcare providers. By addressing the problem at hand, having more translators and hiring more bilingual healthcare providers then that is one step closer to stopping language.


Annotated BIbliography


Communications, NYU Web. “In Home Healthcare, Providers That Do Not Communicate in Patients’ Native Language Negatively Affect Care Outcomes.” NYU, 4 May 2017, www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2017/may/in-home-healthcare–providers-that-do-not-communicate-in-patient.html.


This article explain the vulnerability of a patient with limited English. With language barriers, there can be readmissions and also lengthens the stay at the hospital. The percentage of the staff being language concordant was under 30%. The person that wrote this is with NYU which a very well known college and because it is well known, a lot of people cite the information from the website to the point where they earned the domain of .edu which stands for education. The website itself is also very current from 2017 making it that they are up to date with their information.


DeLong, Stephen. “Language Barriers Affecting Access to Healthcare.” 7 Jan. 2018.


During the interview, we talked about his encounter in the hospital just last month when he went to the ER for his neck. He witness the staff at the hospital having a difficult time communicating with someone that was Hispanic. That was something he thought was very weird even though Oakland was so diverse, it took them around 10 minutes to find someone to talk to the hispanic patient. I trust Stephen DeLong and what he is saying because with the interview, we are giving him a voice to say what he want to say. Mr. DeLong is using his voice to stand up for a teenager in the E.R. even though he doesn’t have to. By doing good is always something that is awesome. Not only that, he didn’t show any signs of lying like looking away or sweating, he looked me straight in the eyes and told me the story.


Meuter, Renata F. I., et al. “Overcoming language barriers in healthcare: A protocol for investigating safe and effective communication when patients or clinicians use a second language.” BMC Health Services Research, BioMed Central, 10 Sept. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4566365/.


This article explains that there will be many communication errors between a healthcare practitioner and their patient. Miscommunication can lead to a life threatening situation. There was an interactions that was performed in a hospital-based situation where the practitioner and patient that didn’t share the first language. This source is credible because it is a government performed protocol meaning if they were to lie, then the whole process would have been pointless. Also, this website have been used by many people for a wide range of information. The people who wrote this are all people that have graduated from good universities.


“Research examines impact of language barriers on patient outcomes in home health care.” News-Medical.net, 4 May 2017, www.news-medical.net/news/20170504/Research-examines-impact-of-language-barriers-on-patient-outcomes-in-home-health-care.aspx.


This article talk about how the lack of research, there isn’t many way to address the issue. With health care settings being inconsistent and difficult, making effective communication challenging between patients and healthcare professionals. This information is from the website news-medical.net which write articles that summarizes topics from sources such as NYU.


Sutton, Bryant . “Language Barriers Affecting Access to Healthcare.” 7 Jan. 2018.


The interview that I had with Bryant Sutton was very different from the others because he had never encountered any situation with where someone that speaks a different language never got what they want because of a language barrier. Bryant Sutton is someone that I interview and found out that he lived in Indiana before moving here meaning he is new here in California and thus thinks that it is very diverse here. He is trustworthy because he is a member of the community that is given a voice and I think that every voice should be heard. Not only that I also think because he is older, he have experience more than me and as they say “the older, the wiser”.

Wolz, Michael M. “Language barriers: challenges to quality healthcare.” International Journal of Dermatology, 16 Dec. 2014, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ijd.12663/full.


This article is about the difficulties and challenges that comes with language barriers. Such as establishing trust and a deeper connection with the health care providing with the patient. Not only that but during translation, the patients reaction is lost meaning that the health care provider would not be able to know if the patient understand. This website is basically an online library with many articles from different books. The article here is from a book about addressing issues of patients health global wide and help underserved patients.



CC BY-SA 4.0 Illness is Not the Only Thing Affecting Our Health by Victoria is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


We welcome new members. You can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.


Youth Voices is organized by teachers at local sites of the National Writing Project and in partnership with Educator Innovator.

CC BY-SA 4.0All work on Youth Voices is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
Missions on Youth Voices

Log in with your credentials


Forgot your details?

Create Account