hispanic healthcare communication

Communicating health care information to the Spanish-speaking Hispanic/Latino community presents some unique challenges.  An effective in-culture communication campaign must not only understand and address the language differences but also account for the cultural nuances of the intended audience.

In this two-part series on the subject, Cook + Schmid has combined the most relevant aspects of several studies to identify what is most important when presenting social service messages, the use of different information and media vehicles, and the importance of communication within this community.

Lay Health Advisors/Educators, or LHAs, have been relied on for a number of health promotion and disease prevention programs. LHAs are healthcare community members who work almost exclusively in neighborhood settings. They connect consumers to healthcare providers to promote health and disease prevention among groups that have traditionally lacked access to care – specifically Hispanics.

LHAs offer advice, emotional support and tangible aid, and have proven effective in reaching the growing immigrant community because of their tailored and culturally relevant messages – and the trust that in-culture communication can build.

Similarly, promotoras are Hispanic community members who receive specialized training to provide basic health education in the community; however, they are not professional healthcare workers. Promotoras educate target Hispanic groups on health issues affecting their community, while providing guidance on how they can access community resources related to healthcare. They are often leaders in the community and as such, have earned credibility and respect from the Hispanic community. According to the American Journal of Public Health, promotoras have a high success rate in relaying key health care messages to the Hispanic community because they share similar values and experiences as their target audiences, as well as create a friendly rapport with program participants.

Language and cultural differences can be a barrier to immigrants accessing the benefits and services offered by various social service agencies. It can also be challenging for institutional representatives to effectively communicate important information to Spanish-speaking immigrants.

Nowadays, written materials are often translated directly from the English versions, which may render them culturally and linguistically inappropriate (Bouchard 2006). In an effort to combat these types of communicative barriers, Bouchard developed an action plan to assist non-English-speaking Hispanics in gaining aid from social service institutions.

The plan consisted of six one-hour interactive Spanish-language television programs featuring bilingual experts in the field with close ties to the community. The goal of the program was to disseminate information and build trust within the community. Bouchard’s key findings included, but were not limited to:

  • While presenters do not have to be Hispanic, they must be sympathetic to Hispanic culture
  • Nationality is not important but the speaker should have knowledge regarding the idiosyncrasies of Latinos (understand the diversity of Hispanics)
  • Presenters must know the common issues that concern many immigrants
  • Presentations should use simple language
  • Presenters should wear professional attire, but not overly formal
  • Talk show presentation is a good idea

LHAs, promotoras, and culturally relevant talk shows are outstanding ways to conduct outreach to the Hispanic population, but these types of tactics are hardly visible in today’s media landscape. With Hispanics at a high risk for many health-related problems, it is essential to include them in regular programming targeted at their communities.

In next week’s follow up blog to the “Communicating Healthcare Issues to Hispanics” series, we’ll dive into the roles storytelling and media ecology play into this population’s responsiveness to outreach. Stay tuned!

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