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This is part of our Building Support for Latino Families: A Research Review »
Language as a Predictor of Use of Health Services
Cultural beliefs regarding mental illness are not the only barriers to use of health services.
Language is an important predictor of use of mental health services, and the effectiveness of treatment for Latino individuals.19
In the particularly sensitive fields of psychology and psychiatry, a lack of bilingual and bicultural providers severely affects service uptake and outcomes.
The problem of language in mental health care has two sides: first, use of interpreters or non-fluent providers can result in literal misunderstandings and loss of nuanced understanding of emotions and reactions; second, lack of genuine understanding of the patient’s background can result in misunderstanding the cultural context of mental health problems, and improper treatment suggestions.
As a high school student stated when describing his experience with psychological counseling, “…this is worse than not seeking help in the first place. It’s, like, why did I go in the first place?”19 The ability of providers to understand the problem in the context of Latino culture, and then to suggest culturally sensitive and acceptable treatment was of great importance to participants of this California-based community analysis.19
Using Promotores de Salud to Increase Health Service Uptake
Several studies have pointed to the effectiveness of using community role models and mentors to increase individuals’ and communities’ knowledge and awareness of barriers to mental health care.
Such leaders pulled from churches or other organizations are trusted members of the local community who understand the culture, and can be used to enhance knowledge about mental health services and reduce stigma.
More formally, use of promotoras/es de salud— bilingual, bicultural community health advocates who are employed by schools or organizations to specifically link individuals to health care providers on a one-on-one basis—has been effective in decreasing stigma and increasing uptake of physical and mental health services in many Latino communities.125
Further development of promotoras/es into “health navigators” at schools who connect students and their families to health services and other community resources has proven a successful and appreciated service.126
Not only do families get the care they need, they also establish closer links with the school, and with their community at large.
More from our Building Support for Latino Families: A Research Review »
- Introduction & Methods
- Key Research Finding: Latinos’ Big Healthcare Gaps
- Key Research Finding: Early Cognitive Development
- Key Research Finding: ECE Programs
- Key Research Finding: Disconnected Latino Parents
- Key Research Finding: Head Start Centers as Resource Hubs
- Key Research Finding: Promotores de Salud (this section)
- Key Research Finding: Latino Medical Homes
- Key Research Finding: Latino Community Schools
- Policy Implications
- Future Research Needs
References for this section »
19. Aguilar-Gaxiola, S., Loera, G. & Mendez, I. Community-Defined Solutions For Latino Mental Health Care Disparities. (California reducing disparities project, Latino strategic planning workgroup population report, 2012).
125. Lubell, E. Building Community Schools: A Guide for Action. Child. Aid Soc. (2011).
126. Merck, A. Health Navigator + School = Latino Parents Connected to Health Services. Salud America (2015). Available at: https://salud-america.org/health-navigators-in-elementary-schools-increase-latinos-access-to-health-care-services/. (Accessed: 29th September 2017)