Limited English Proficient and Consumer Health Information Resources

Many hospitals, clinics, community health centers, and voluntary organizations provide a broad range of health services to individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP). Numerous studies over the past 25 years have demonstrated a strong connection between language and health. Language can affect the accuracy of patient histories, the ability to engage in treatment decision-making, understanding a medical diagnosis or treatment, patient trust level with care providers, underuse of primary and preventative care, and lower use or misuse of medications. Culture also plays a significant role in health, healing and wellness belief systems – influencing how the patient and the care provider perceive illness, disease, and their causes.

The National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) Consumer Outreach Librarians have curated reliable culturally and linguistically appropriate patient and consumer health information on their Consumer Health Information in Many Languages Resources page.  The intent of this resource is to provide one place for a rich variety of multi-language resources. One great feature is the “Search” the web sites on this page using the Customized Search Engine. It will search your terms in all the sites listed, except the dictionaries. It’s a quick way to locate relevant sources if you are not sure where to begin. Below are a few examples of some of the sites you might be directed to during your search:
Provides accurate, concise, and valuable health information in American Sign Language using health information created by the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health. is a unique site, and while other sites offer American Sign Language (ASL) health information materials, it is the focus of their content. ASL interpreters sign the text that is provided with each entry. You can search for a disease or illness in the alpha listing; locate information on understanding a variety of tests, and a locator to find deaf friendly doctors in the community. One drawback to the site is that there is no date of addition/updating.

Cultural Competency Resources and Patient Education Materials for: Amharic, Chinese, Hmong, Karen, Khmer, Oromo, Somali, Spanish, Tigrinya, Vietnamese and more.

EthnoMed has been around since 1994. It is an ethnic medicine website containing medical and cultural information about immigrant and refugee groups. Information is specific to groups in the Seattle area, but is applicable to anyone working with the groups represented. The goal of the website is to make information about culture, language, health, illness and community resources directly accessible to health care providers who see patients from different ethnic groups. EthnoMed was designed as a quick reference tool to consult prior to meeting with a patient or client. For example, a clinician seeing a Cambodian asthma patient for the first time could find out if there are cultural and interpretive issues in the patient’s Cambodian community that might impact asthma management. The care provider could also download a patient education pamphlet in Khmer (Cambodian language) to give to the patient. The site also provides a calendar with significant religious holidays. This can help care providers understand when treatments or medications might need to be adjusted – for example Ramadan. It also offers a selection of print and audio resources for blind/low literacy populations.

Health Info Translations
Use the drop-down box to choose a language – including Chinese Simplified and Traditional, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Ukrainian, Hindi, Vietnamese, and Arabic.

This site provides plain language health education resources for health care professionals and those working in communities with limited English proficient populations.  The site, which launched in 2005, is a collaboration of four health systems in Ohio, and has received many honors from professional organizations. The entries are developed from evidence-based research. Translators, editors and proofreaders are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree in the field or specialty they are translating, if they are from outside the U.S., they must have a translation certification, and undergo linguistic testing and training. Documents are updated at least every four years, or as needed. Health Information Translations offers:

  • Resources that are searchable by keyword, health topic, language and multimedia resources.
  • 20 languages.
  • PDF format for easy downloading with Adobe Acrobat.
  • Culturally appropriate materials.
  • Materials translated by contracted translation service then back translated for accuracy.
  • Easy to read with the English version written at or below a 7th grade reading level using the Fry Formula for readability.
  • Dual language format: English and translated version will appear on adjoining pages, with matching page breaks (some foreign languages require more text than the English text).

In addition to specific health topics, you will find information on disaster preparedness, diagnostic tests, and hospital signage.

Find multilingual, multicultural health information and patient education materials about health conditions and wellness topics. Patients, family members and caregivers can learn about diseases, causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention. Materials may be available as printable documents, audio, and video. Over 60 languages.

Health Translations Online Directory
This database contains links to government, hospital, community health center and other agency online multilingual resources in numerous languages. Brought to us from the Victorian Government down under, Health Translations Online Directory has over 100 languages. You can search for a PDF by a topic or by language. The site provides the ability to customize the popular “I Speak” poster for helping care providers identify the language spoken by their patient. For those working in health care or public health settings, the document can be designed to include the languages relevant to your community of practice. Each document has the date added and the date the page was last updated. Note: the PDFs are in the selected language, and do not provide dual English text.

La Leche League
Breastfeeding information in 16 languages. Le Leche’s mission is to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother. You can find local support worldwide, but the information provided may only be in the language most commonly spoken in the country selected. If you hold your mouse over the language bar on the home page it will display in English.

MedlinePlus Health Information in Multiple Languages
Information in nearly 60 languages from the National Library of Medicine’s premier consumer health website. No list of authoritative health information websites would be complete without a visit to MedlinePlus, and they do not disappoint in the selection of language materials.  The medical encyclopedia contains a wealth of images, medical photographs and illustrations.  In addition, there are health and surgery videos.

Dana Abbey, Community Engagement Coordinator