October Is Healthy Literacy Month: With More than 100 Languages Spoken in New Jersey, Hospital Program Promotes 'Healthy' Communications Between Providers and Patients

Oct 14, 2013, 09:55 ET from New Jersey Hospital Association (NJHA)

PRINCETON, N.J., Oct. 14, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- October is the national observance of Health Literacy Month, a time to promote awareness that good communication and understanding of health information is essential to helping healthcare consumers get the best care possible. According to the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy, nearly nine out of 10 adults have reported difficulty understanding routine health information.

The challenges of health literacy can affect all individuals, regardless of education or reading level. But the issue is especially complicated for those with limited proficiency in English. And for New Jersey, a state rich in diversity where more than 100 languages are spoken, the need for clear communication of health information is especially great.

To help hospitals and other healthcare facilities bridge the language barrier, the New Jersey Hospital Association offers a statewide program that trains bilingual healthcare staff to serve as medical interpreters. These staffers are uniquely suited for this important role since they reflect the diversity of their communities and possess a background in healthcare.

"Healthy literacy is an essential component of quality healthcare and good outcomes for the patient," said Aline Holmes, RN, NJHA's senior vice president of clinical affairs and director of the NJHA Institute for Quality and Patient Safety. "Having bilingual staff trained to serve as medical interpreters can help prevent misdiagnosis, reduce unnecessary testing and help ensure that individuals understand their care instructions and can play an active role in their own healthcare."

Since the program's launch in 2007, more than 600 bilingual staff from 46 healthcare facilities have been successfully trained to serve as medical interpreters. Additional sessions are being planned this fall in coordination with Health Literacy Month at University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, St. Joseph's Wayne Hospital in Wayne and at Virtua in Voorhees.

All training sessions are eight-hour programs. A new partnership between NJHA and the Rutgers University Office of Continuing Professional Education provides grant assistance to eligible organizations to defray the cost of the training.

"True health literacy is about more than just understanding the words," said Maria Mera, program manager for the interpreter training initiative. "Our program also emphasizes cultural sensitivity, and that's why native speakers from within the community are such an important resource that we hope to develop more fully."

SOURCE New Jersey Hospital Association (NJHA)