(National Healthcare Disparities Report, 2005)
If you want to gain the language skills and cultural competency required to provide quality health care, education and/or social services to Latinos; If you want to open your eyes to new realities, Somos Hermanos is for you.
Somos Hermanos has trained more than 350 health care, educators and social services providers in Spanish language and cultural competency over the last 10 years.
Students have participated from universities across the US & Canada, from Los Angeles to Nova Scotia, and are now putting their skills to use as doctors, nurses, physician assistants, public health providers, social workers, therapists, educators and lawyers.
Our Program is designed to equip participants with the language skills and cultural competency they need to provide high quality professional services to Latinos. Students are not required to have previous Spanish language experience before participating.
Spanish is currently the primary language for 11% of the US population overall, and these rates are much higher in some areas of the country. In Los Angeles County, for example, Spanish is the primary language of 44.5% of residents. This is only expected to increase – the Latino population is expected to triple in size between 2005 and 2050, with Latinos comprising 29 percent of the US population in 2050. But while Latin Americans comprise the largest minority group in the US, they receive disproportionately low access to lower quality health care, education and social services. (Language Barriers to Health Care in the United States, New England Journal of Medicine, 2006)
MANY PATIENTS AND CLIENTS RELY ON THEIR FAMILY MEMBERS, OR UNTRAINED INTERPRETERS RECRUITED ON AN AD HOC BASIS, HOWEVER THIS POSES MANY RISKS; LANGUAGE BARRIERS OFTEN HAVE ADVERSE EFFECTS ON HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES OUTCOMES.
The National Healthcare Disparities Report states that having “providers who meet the needs of individual patients and with whom patients can develop a relationship based on mutual communication and trust” is an essential component of health care access - a component that is often not addressed for Latinos in the US and Canada. Language barriers and lack of cultural understanding account for 37% of health care access problems.
"RECENT RESEARCH THAT INCLUDES THE VARIABLES OF BOTH ETHNICITY AND OFFICIAL LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY SUGGESTS THAT IN MANY CASES, LANGUAGE, RATHER THAN CULTURAL BELIEFS AND PRACTICES OF PATIENTS, MAY BE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT BARRIER TO INITIAL CONTACT WITH HEALTH SERVICES. LANGUAGE BARRIERS MAY RESULT IN FAILURE TO PROTECT PATIENT CONFIDENTIALITY, OR TO OBTAIN INFORMED CONSENT. PATIENTS WHO DO NOT SPEAK THE SAME LANGUAGE AS THEIR HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS CONSISTENTLY REPORT LOWER SATISFACTION THAN THOSE WHO SHARE THE SAME LANGUAGE AS THEIR PROVIDERS.¨ (HEALTH CANADA, NOVEMBER 2001)
In a 2001 Canadian Ethnic Diversity Survey, the Hispanic population made up only 1% of the total population, however between 1996 and 2001 it also grew by 32%, while the overall population grew by only 4%. Although health care, legal and social services systems are different in Canada, immigrants face similar barriers to receiving quality services and there is increasing awareness that a number of populations are under-served.
“I can say that this program has impacted my life more than anything else that I have ever experienced before! With Somos Hermanos, I was able to learn about the many social justice issues present within a population outside of my own. My eyes were opened to a world that was unfamiliar to me which constantly challenged the perspectives that I had created and knowledge that I had originally come in with.”
--Krista Lofton, MPH, University of Southern California, Spring 2010 participant
"This program gave me a completely different perspective on medical care and access, and it led me in the direction of public (along with my work in a non-profit clinic). I also feel that I am opening doors for some monolingual Spanish speakers that struggle to find providers with whom they can communicate. I feel very instrumental in allowing them to gain access to health services near their homes."
--Nicci Wolters, MD, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio Medical School, Fall 2008 participant