Collaborators from CGHSR Contribute to Study Highlighting Relationship Between Language Access and Health Outcomes

Three collaborators from the Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility (CGHSR) were senior and contributing authors on a recently published study that found a connection between language access and health outcomes. The study was conducted in collaboration with HealthPartners Institute as part CGHSR's National Resource Center for Refugees, Immigrants, and Migrants (NRC-RIM) at the University of Minnesota.

The study, published April 12 in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open, found that individuals with limited English proficiency were more likely to experience delays in COVID-19 vaccination and become hospitalized or die from the disease than English speakers.

The study reports there is a lack of literature on language preferences and COVID-19 vaccine uptake. It goes on to recommend improved data collection of patients’ language preferences in order to provide better health outcomes for all.

Authors on the study included Bill Stauffer, MD, MSPH, FASTMH, and Erin Mann, MPH — who are Co-Principal Investigators for NRC-RIM — as well as Kumi Smith, PhD.

The study analyzed data for 851,410 individuals seen at a HealthPartners facility between December 2020 and March 2022. The study utilized patient self-reported language preference and interpreter needs and compared time to first vaccine and rates of COVID-19-associated hospitalization and death across language preference groups.

The study found that those with a language preference other than English were more likely to experience delays in receiving the first dose of their COVID-19 vaccine. Patients with a language preference other than English were also twice as likely as English speakers to be hospitalized due to COVID-19; the study found that patients with limited English proficiency were prone to even higher rates of hospitalization and COVID-19-related death.

While providing language interpretation in medical settings is required by law, the study says medically trained interpreters are underused. This lack of cultural and linguistic support leads to miscommunication and, ultimately, less than optimal care for patients whose preferred language is not English.

The work conducted in the study is directly tied to CGHSR’s mission of advancing equitable health globally. CGHSR leads efforts within the University of Minnesota for NRC-RIM. The study is part of NRC-RIM’s portfolio of work and mission to support communities facing health inequities.

Read the full study here