Spanish-speaking Kansans Raise Voices on Health Equity
By Rachel Showstack
Kansas legislators who do not speak the languages of their constituents generally do not hear what those constituents have to say about city, county, and state-level issues. The input of speakers of minoritized languages (such as Spanish) is extremely important in determining policies that will allow all Kansans the potential to reach their highest possible level of health.
In Wichita, a team of language scholars from Wichita State University has been engaging throughout the year with Spanish-speaking patients and their family members, interpreters, and health care providers to discuss challenges in healthcare for Spanish-speakers in our state.
One of the primary issues that has emerged in this engagement process is the inadequacy of systems for providing interpreting services in Kansas health care institutions. Patients tend to experience worse health outcomes when they do not receive care in their preferred language, either through a qualified interpreter or a provider who speaks the patients’ preferred language, and many of the patients who participated in the stakeholder meetings had experienced problematic health care encounters in which interpreters were not provided, did not arrive on-time, or offered inadequate services.
In some cases, the patients experienced adverse health outcomes as a result of language barriers. The Wichita State team, in collaboration with some of the patients who participated in the project in spring 2020, has created a short video to raise the voices of Latinx patients, for the purpose of presenting patients’ experiences and perspectives to Kansas lawmakers.
The video is available below this paragraph. The group plans to continue meeting and will continue to engage in advocacy and education efforts to support Latinx health in Kansas.
Rachel Showstack is an Associate Professor of Spanish and Spanish Division Director at Wichita State University.