, Volume 22, Issue 2 Supplement, pp 371-372,
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Date: 22 Sep 2007

Reducing Language Barriers and Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Health Care: An Investment in Our Future

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In 2003, the Institute of Medicine issued a groundbreaking report that shone a spotlight on the problem of racial and ethnic disparities in health care in the United States.1 It is now well recognized that minority Americans tend to receive less care, and lower-quality care, than the majority (white) population. The reasons behind this phenomenon are complex and opaque. There is no single explanation, and in many cases, we do not have an explanation. However, for millions of minority Americans, most of them foreign-born, one explanation is readily apparent: they do not speak, read, or write English, and health care in this country, with few exceptions, is delivered in English.

Two articles in this JGIM Supplement attest to the role of language barriers in explaining racial/ethnic disparities in health care. Cheng and colleagues examined the use of basic, evidence-based health care services for prevention and chronic disease management among Latinos and whites in the United States.2 They ...