“The gaps in care that we observed could be a result of several factors rooted in language-based inequities. Non-English speakers may be less likely to seek care for health concerns, anticipating that their needs might not be met,” researchers wrote. “Patients with limited English proficiency, for example, may have had prior negative experiences with the health care system, including being made to feel unwelcome or discriminated against.”
The study looked at data for Spanish speakers and extrapolated it to adults with limited English proficiency.
Publication of the study comes amid an ongoing pandemic that continues to take a disproportionate toll on racial and ethnic minority groups. Language barriers could be exacerbating that toll.
“The pandemic has been a magnifier of the failure of our health care system to meet the needs of patients facing language barriers,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Jessica Himmelstein, a Harvard research fellow and primary care physician at Cambridge Health Alliance.
Lautaro Grinspan is a Report for America corps member covering metro Atlanta’s immigrant communities.