What is Meaningful Language Access and Why Does it Matter?
When we think about access to healthcare, we generally think about transportation needs and the availability of appointments for patients. An important piece of access also includes providing health information to a patient in their preferred language. Discussing and understanding one’s health is fundamental in making decisions and giving informed consent. When a patient receives instructions about medications or home care in their own language, it provides equitable access by creating a culturally responsive environment.
Meaningful Language Access (MLA) aims to provide anyone who has Limited-English-Proficiency (LEP) with a professional interpreter when they receive healthcare services.
Equitable access to healthcare for all people started with the civil rights movement. When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was drafted, it outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. In 2000, Executive Order 13166 was created to require interpreters in healthcare when institutions were provided with federal funding. More recently, Oregon House Bill 2359 requires that healthcare providers work with certified or qualified healthcare interpreters from the OHA registry when they are caring for a LEP patient.
Oregon is a melting pot of various cultures and ethnicities. Professional interpretation services are associated with improved clinical care in terms of comprehension, utilization, clinical outcomes, and satisfaction for both patients and clinicians.
In support of this work, CareOregon is providing scholarships for staff interpreters at clinics and community partners that serve our members. In 2022 and 2023, CareOregon is funding at least 80 scholarships with the Oregon Health Care Interpreters Association (OHCIA) for clinic staff to become certified or maintain their interpreter certification. You can find more information here: Health Care Provider Classes — Oregon Health Care Interpreters Association (ohcia.org)
CareOregon pays for interpretation services through our contracted vendors. There is no cost to providers or members for using one of our vendors. Our list of vendors can be found on our website here: Interpreter vendor handout (careoregondental.org)
Additionally, we have “I Speak” cards and language posters available at no cost to our providers, which act as language identification tools. The cards are available in about 25 languages and include a version for those who are deaf, deaf-blind, or hard of hearing. They can be ordered through the Provider Portal, you can request them via email from firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can print them directly from our Provider Support and Resources page: Provider support (careoregondental.org).