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Medical interpreters and bilingual school staff: Potential disaster information conduits?

Brooke R. Ike, MPH, Rebecca Calhoun, MPH, Antoinette S. Angulo, MPH, Hendrika Meischke, PhD, MPH, Kirsten D. Senturia, PhD


Objectives: Dissemination of trusted disaster information to limited English proficient (LEP) communities may mitigate the negative effects these higher risk communities experience in disasters. For immigrant communities, disaster messages may be perceived with skepticism, and fear of public officials may affect compliance with disaster messages. This study explores whether medical interpreters (MIs) and bilingual school staff (BSS) are already informal information sources for LEP communities, and could their connection to both public service organizations and LEP communities make them ideal efficient, trusted disaster information conduits for LEP communities.

Design: The authors conducted a mixed methods study, which included MI individual interviews, Latino community focus groups, an MI employer survey, and school administrator interviews. Setting: To ensure diversity in the sample, data were collected in both Los Angeles and Seattle.

Results: MIs, MI employers, and schools are willing to communicate disaster information to LEP communities. MIs and BSS are connected to and share information with LEP communities. Latino LEP communities are eager for more disaster information and sources.

Conclusions: The study adds to the evidence that a multipronged approach that includes collaborating with professionals linked to immigrant communities, such as MIs and BSS, could be an effective method of disaster information dissemination. Working with MIs and BSS as part of a wider dissemination strategy would promote a community-based interpersonal flow of information that would contribute to LEP community’s trust in the message.


limited English proficient, disaster communication, medical interpreters, bilingual school staff

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