Novel academic center model for Spanish-speaking patients in the southeastern United States

Prev Med Community Health. 2020 Jul;3(1):146. Epub 2020 Jul 28.


Latinos form the largest U.S. minority and will account for one quarter of the population by 2050. Immigration trends from 1995-2010 challenged health systems in "new destination" regions such as the southeastern U.S., with Latino population increases of 200-400%, and a minimal bilingual health workforce. Academic medical centers and safety net hospitals are challenged to respond beyond the interpreter paradigm of care delivery to provide efficient, cost-effective and compassionate care that complies with the U.S. Title VI mandates. We describe the design and successful implementation of an academic model in the care of Spanish-speaking patients in the pediatric and adult primary care and subspecialty settings in the University of North Carolina Health Care System. This model leverages a limited bilingual workforce to maximize the extent and quality of language-concordant care for this population The innovative features of the UNC Center for Latino Health (CELAH) is based upon five principles: patient navigation, a medical home, a block-scheduling system, a "virtual clinic" model using existing space, and leveraged cost-neutral resources. Patients are scheduled to specific half-day sessions in specialty clinics and matched with bilingual faculty and staff. This facilitates door-to-door care in Spanish for patients, the majority of whom are immigrants from rural Mexico and Central America with limited English and health literacy. CELAH is considered an academic transition model in anticipation of an adequate bilingual health workforce in 1-2 decades. As a hub, this clinical platform supports unique programs in medical education, translational and health equity research, community outreach, and faculty engagement.