Immigrant and refugee health: cross-cultural communication

Karl T Rew, S Lindsey Clarke, Weyinshet Gossa, Daniel Savin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Physicians in the United States increasingly care for culturally, linguistically, and educationally diverse immigrants with limited English proficiency. Language barriers contribute significantly to the health disparities experienced by patients with limited English proficiency. Qualified professional interpreters should be used instead of ad hoc interpreters, such as a patient's friend or family member, an untrained bilingual staff member, or a bilingual stranger. Children should not be used as interpreters. Physicians and other health care professionals must be fluent to communicate with patients in another language. Use of electronic translation systems should be avoided. Cultural competence refers to the attitudes, knowledge, and skills needed to work well in cross-cultural situations and effectively provide care to diverse populations. Stereotypes are perpetuated when members of a group are assumed to share cultural values, beliefs, or attitudes. Attempting to memorize a list of what to do and what to avoid when working with any particular group is ineffective. Every patient's culture is multidimensional and dynamic and is not defined by race or language group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-9
Number of pages10
JournalFP essentials
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • Communication Barriers
  • Cultural Competency
  • Emigrants and Immigrants
  • Family Practice
  • Humans
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Refugees
  • Translating
  • United States


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