On Thursday, August 24th, Found in Translation’s Executive Director Divya Chaturvedi participated as a panelist at the 2023 Language Equity Symposium, hosted by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. This was the second annual convening of experts from across the healthcare continuum to discuss best practices and advancements in language equity in healthcare. Presented both as an in-person and virtual event, the agenda featured short presentations on recent research and policy initiatives addressing language access in various healthcare settings.
Divya was one of six panelists for the afternoon panel, “The Future of Language Access”. The full panel included:
- Iris Coloma-Gaines, JD | Statewide Language Access Attorney, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
- Juan Fernando Lopera | Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, Beth Israel Lahey Health
- Sucharita Kher, MD | Vice Chair for Clinical Operations and Quality, Department of Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine
- Crystal Rosa | Language Access Manager, City of Cambridge
- Bill Tan, MEd | Founder, Transcendent Endeavors, Canopy Innovations, Inc., and Blossom
Over the course of the nearly two hour conversation, the panelists discussed a variety of topics and challenges facing language access in healthcare. One major challenge that echoed throughout the panel (and even the presentations from the morning) was the need to increase consistency and add nuance to clinical data collection efforts on languages spoken by patients. Without clear and consistent data, it is a challenge to effectively analyze the effects of language barriers or the provision of language services (and the costs they carry) on health outcomes at scale.
While others on the panel discussed the roles of technology, AI, and healthcare training practices on the future of language access, Divya brought vital insight into how the viability and future of the medical interpreter profession is another factor that should be considered.
“There’s a real need for trained interpreters. Found in Translation is going into our 13th year now. When we started, the wages for medical interpreters were much higher than many other sectors, and so it was economically viable to become a medical interpreter. But now we are seeing wages stagnate, so fewer people are going into this profession and that becomes an issue. If we are thinking of [how to improve and expand] language access and we are really not investing in the interpreter, then we will really not be able to provide comprehensive language access.”– Divya Chaturvedi at the 2023 Language Equity Symposium
Iris Coloma Gaines also spoke about the importance of governmental policy, and highlighted the “Language Access and Inclusion Act”, pending legislation in Massachusetts that would increase language resources for state agencies. Read more about this effort here.
The hosts of the symposium have shared a summary of the events proceedings, which is available here. Convenings like this are so important to the advancement of language access, and Found in Translation looks forward to continuing our participation and leadership in these conversations in the months and years ahead.