Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services (Access Alliance) provides services and addresses system inequities to improve health outcomes for the most vulnerable immigrants, refugees, and their communities.

Equitable access to high-quality health care is one of the fundamental principles of the Canadian health care system. However, many Canadians who are not proficient in at least one of Canada’s two official languages, English and French, face substantial health inequities due to language barriers.

Although addressing health inequities must be considered an ethical and legal obligation, the perceived cost of providing interpreting services, combined with a lack of legislation or legal impetus to act, represents a major health system-level challenge. A new report, produced by Access Alliance, provides an update on previous research, making a compelling and evidence-based ‘business case’ for investing in professional interpreting services.

This new report explores findings from over 120 sources, examining research done in Canada (including findings from British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Nunavut) and worldwide, with more than 50 items published since 2010.

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The findings are organized in alignment with the four goals of the Quadruple Aim Framework:

  • Better Health Outcomes are discussed relative to patient safety, quality and appropriateness of care, hospital and physician utilization, inappropriate procedures, and medication errors.
  • In consideration of the aim of Improved Patient Experience, non-English speakers in Canada are reported to be less satisfied with their medical treatment than their English-proficient counterparts.
  • Exploring the goal of Improved Staff Experience, the literature finds that provider satisfaction is higher when access to professional language services is available.
  • The final section, Lower Cost of Care, examines how language barriers decrease the efficiency of the health care system and increase health care costs. Professional language support is associated with increased savings due to reduced emergency department use and more efficient use of staff time.

Overall, the findings from the report highlight the substantial social and economic benefits that can come from the effective use of professional interpreting support. When quantified, these benefits outweigh the costs of implementing such services. More importantly, there is a consensus in the literature that providing language access services within health care should not be viewed as a separate ‘add-on’ program. Instead, it must be understood as an essential component of a strategy to meet broader health systems goals.

To read the full report, click the link below: https://bit.ly/3cMzaHI

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Although addressing health inequities must be considered an ethical and legal obligation, the perceived cost of providing interpreting services combined with a lack of legislation, or legal impetus to act, represents a major health system-level challenge.

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