ECCV launches major discussion paper aimed at improving interpreter services in Victoria’s health system

The Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria (ECCV) has launched a major discussion paper Our Stories, Our VoicesCulturally diverse consumer perspectives on the role of accredited interpreters in Victoria’s health services, which has key recommendations that aim to improve interpreter services in the health care system.

ECCV Chairman, Eddie Micallef, said the discussion paper was an important document that had the real potential to reduce the gap between what is required in terms of interpreters in the health system, and what is currently available - which has many deficiencies.

“Our Stories, Our Voices assesses the current understanding within culturally diverse communities of the role of accredited interpreters within Victoria’s health care system. In particular, the paper examines whether culturally diverse consumers are aware of, know how to access and recognise the importance of interpreting services when using health services,” Mr Micallef said.

“The ability to access health services and information is vital for culturally diverse consumers to live a high quality of life. However, low English proficiency, and lower levels of health literacy within multicultural communities lead to poorer health outcomes, more hospitalisations and other inequalities.

“Many migrants, refugees and asylum seekers do not have the English language skills to understand what information is required by health professionals and clearly communicate their needs. This is compounded by health services, which are often uninformed or unresponsive to the way culture impacts on health communication.”

In 2012, ECCV published a report  An Investment Not an Expense: Enhancing Health Literacy in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities to highlight the importance of identifying barriers to improving health literacy and enhancing access to language services, particularly accredited interpreters.

“This current discussion paper provides a fuller picture through direct community consultations and focuses on the use of accredited interpreters by people with low English proficiency accessing health services in Victoria. It seeks to understand the role accredited interpreters play in Victoria’s healthcare system and whether consumers are sufficiently aware of, and request, qualified interpreters when using health services,” Mr Micallef said.

“The consultation findings show that although a majority of respondents found it hard to communicate with health professionals in English, many are still unaware of the role and importance of using accredited interpreters.

“This report is crucially important for policy makers and anyone working in the transcultural health sector seeking to better understand the use of interpreter services in Victoria’s health system to make a real difference to the health outcomes of our multicultural communities.

“Recommendations in this report include the development of an awareness-raising campaign to promote the role and engagement of accredited interpreters.

“This includes supporting culturally diverse consumers and their families and carers and service providers to become more knowledgeable about how to access and engage interpreting services and to understand their importance in reaching better health outcomes.”

View the full discussion paper at: http://www.eccv.org.au/library/ECCV_Interpreters_discussion_paper_FINAL_March_2017_web.pdf

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