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Krankenschwester und Patient

our background

Due to globalization and the increasing numbers of migrants and refugees worldwide host countries have experienced a rise in multilingualism in a variety of contexts, including healthcare, in which communication is of utmost importance ( 1, 2, 3 ).


Many migrants may not be proficient in the language(s) of their host country, even after a considerable period of stay in these countries ( 4 ).

Patients with limited language proficiency in the local language of their country of residence are found to have limited access to healthcare, lower rates of physician visits, reduced understanding of physicians’ explanations, poorer adherence to treatment and to be less satisfied with health care services ( 5 ).

Resources in this context are, for example, the language competencies of healthcare professionals ( 6 ) professional and non-professional interpretes ( 7 ) as well as e-Health solutions ( 8 ).


By collaborating internationally across different disciplines, exchanging expertise on research methodologies and best practices/knowledge and conducting joint (research) projects, we want to address the impact of cultural difference and multilingualism in health care and the issue of how best to provide high-quality healthcare to patients with different linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

In addition to language barriers, the role of culture in healthcare can cause additional barriers. The Lancet Culture and Health Commission identified the systematic neglect of culture in health as one of the largest barriers to the advancement of the highest attainable standard of health worldwide and pointed to the importance of cultural awareness in healthcare ( 9 ).


In contrast to an obvious clinical challenge posed when treating patients with different linguistic and cultural backgrounds that has tremendous consequences on patients´ safety and the quality of their treatment, there is an overall lack of research on migrant health ( 10 ).


In order to address the issue of how best to provide high-quality healthcare to patients with different cultural backgrounds and who may not be proficient in the language(s) of their respective host countries, the proposed interdisciplinary research consortium will enable the partner universities and institutions of higher education to share their individual expertise in multilingual healthcare communication in various clinical contexts.

  1. Kluge U, Bogic M, Devillé W, Greacen T, Dauvrin M, Dias S, Gaddini A, Koitzsch Jensen N, Ioannidi-Kapolou E, Mertaniemi R, Puipcinós I Riera R, Sandhu S, Sarvary A, Soares JJ, Stankunas M, Straßmayr C, Welbel M, Heinz A, Priebe S. Health services and the treatment of immigrants. Data on service use, interpreting services and immigrant staff members in services across Europe. Eur Psychiatry 2012;27(Suppl2):56-62.

  2. Yeo S. (2004). Language barriers and access to care. Annu Rev Nurs Res; 22:59-73.

  3. Ohtani A, Suzuki T, Takeuchi H, Uchida H (2015). Language Barriers and Access to Psychiatric Care: A Systematic Review. Psychiatric services (Washington, DC);66(8):798-805.


  4. Harpelund L, Nielsen SS, Krasnik A. Self-perceived need for interpreter among immigrants in Denmark. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health. 2012;40(5):457-65.


  5. Lebrun LA. (2012). Effects of length of stay and language proficiency on health care experiences among immigrants in Canada and the United States. Soc Sci Med; Apr;74(7):1062-72. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.11.031. Epub 2012 Jan 25.


  6. Kroll JF, Dussias PE (2017). The Benefits of Multilingualism to the Personal and Professional Development of Residents of The US. Foreign Lang Ann; 50(2):248-259.


  7. Breitsprecher C, Mueller JT, Mösko M (2020) Quality standards and minimum requirements for the qualification of interpreters in social work settings in Germany. Hamburg: Universitätsklinikum Hamburg–Eppendorf. ISBN 978-3-00-066148-8


  8. Joseph C, Garruba M, Melder A (2018). Patient satisfaction of telephone or video interpreter services compared with in-person services: a systematic review. Aust Health Rev ;42(2):168-177


  9. Napier AD, Ancarno C, Butler B, Calabrese J, Chater A, Chatterjee H Z.. Woolf K (2014). Culture and Health. Lancet. 2014; 384(9954):1607-39. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(14)61603-2.


  10. Smith J (2018). Migrant health is public health, and public health needs to be political. Lancet Public Health; 3; e418.

Footnote 1, 2, 3
Footnote 4
Footnote 5
Footnote 6
Footnote 7
Footnote 8
Anker 9
Anker 10
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