Challenges in Caring for Linguistic Minorities in the Pediatric Population

Children (Basel). 2019 Jul 25;6(8):87. doi: 10.3390/children6080087.


Physicians in the United States (U.S.) face unique obstacles in providing care for persons with limited English proficiency (LEP), especially speakers of rare languages. Lack of professional resources is not a problem exclusive to health care delivery, with speakers of Mayan dialects receiving increasingly narrow representation in detention centers and immigration courts at the U.S.-Mexico border. Parent-child dynamics and other crucial information related to pediatric care may be lost in translation in the event of inadequate interpreter services. Several strategies could address disparities in medical care faced by persons with LEP, speaking rare as well as more common languages. These include increasing the availability of professional interpreters via expanded and/or incentivized training programs, providing focused education in interpreter services for medical students, and unifying interpretation services provided by local consulates and nonprofit agencies for both medical and legal purposes.

Keywords: Mayan; immigrants; limited English proficiency (LEP); linguistic minorities; medical interpreters; refugees.