New York City is the most linguistically diverse city in the United States, with more than 192 languages spoken in the New York metropolitan area.
Liz Robbins of the New York Times recently discussed the influx of west African immigrants in the Bronx; the number of immigrants has reportedly risen from 28,154 in 2007 to 45,723 in 2014.
In the article, Influx of West Africans in the Bronx Spurs Demand for Interpreters Liz Robbins not only emphasizes the scope of the language barrier for this growing population in the healthcare realm but also in navigating and accessing other processes from immigration paperwork to housing applications, education services, etc.
The blue dual-handset interpreter phones that currently the standard in medical interpreting are simply not enough. In fact, given the reported obstacles to source the physical interpreter phones -- perhaps on the other side of the department or currently in use -- and connect to the phone interpreter service they provide, turns providers to using other more immediate tools: perhaps a "bilingual" family member or Google Translate.
Aside from language gaps, Liz Robbins notes the related cultural nuances that require awareness and sensitivity:
"But sometimes, there is more than a language gap. Last year, a baby boy from Kenya came to the emergency room with lead poisoning. After a month of treatment, he did not get better...the source of the problem had come from Africa. The kitchen utensils brought to the United States by the boy’s parents were decorated with lead paint."
It is integral that innovation happen in this space and imperative that along with action around the provision of language communication tools, there is also attention given to initiatives and resources that promote cultural competency.