Language and Cultural Barriers in the United States Healthcare System

Sutton, Amanda
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This Honors Thesis aims to examine and address the insufficient provision of language accommodation services for non-English-speaking patients and patients with limited English proficiency seeking care in the United States, as well as to provide suggestions to mitigate the issue. First, I relay stories of documented instances in which language barriers have led to negative outcomes for patients and derive from these stories a list of the greatest challenges associated with the presence of language barriers in U.S. health care. Next, I provide an overview of the current standards and laws at the federal and state level associated with language accommodation in healthcare settings to provide readers a glimpse into the United States’ current status in response to the issue. Then, I present a comparison study comparing the United States to Australia, a country with an advanced system of language accommodation services from which the U.S. can learn. Finally, I review suggestions, recommendations, and steps that the United States can use to improve its current system of language accommodation services in healthcare settings.