Indigenous Medical Interpreters

Why Latino Communities Need Indigenous Medical Interpreters

With 41 million native Spanish speakers in the United States, it should come as no surprise that Spanish-speaking medical interpreters are always in demand. However, a growing number of Latinos, primarily from Southern Mexico and Guatemala, have different linguistic needs. That’s because people who belong to indigenous groups may speak Spanish as a second language—or not at all. And this language barrier poses a threat to COVID-19 vaccination efforts within Latino communities.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Latinos

Latinos have been hit hard by COVID-19. Despite making up only 18% of the population, they make up 26% of the deaths. In 2021, Latinos, especially those in California and Texas, accounted for a disparate amount of deaths and hospitalizations compared to their portion of the population. Several factors such as a higher percent of essential workers, multi-generational households, and pre-existing conditions create a likelihood of spread.

Yet there’s evidence that Latinos who belong to indigenous groups may be even more likely to contract the disease. In 2020, UCSF conducted an antibody study in a predominately Latino neighborhood in Oakland, California. While 9.8% of the overall population had antibodies, 28.6% of Mayan-speaking Latinos had them. As vaccination levels rise, getting toward a community immunity means vaccine outreach in neighborhoods with indigenous speakers. These neighborhoods will require specialized language support, including qualified medical interpreters to be a part of any COVID treatment and vaccination.

La Clínica de La Raza: A Vaccination Success Story

As a vaccination clinic headquartered in Oakland, California has shown, access to interpreters who speak indigenous languages make all the difference. La Clínica de La Raza offers assistance in Mayan languages such as Mam, K’iche, and Q’eqchi at their 32 locations. Since they opened on March 4th, they’ve administered 2,000 vaccines per week.

The initiative came about in response to the rising number of Mayan residents. (They’re one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in Oakland). Onsite interpreters arrive on Thursdays to meet the community’s linguistic needs.

For communities without an existing onsite support structure, virtual interpretation can provide a wider access by tapping into a global pool of interpreters. Platforms like Boostlingo can be affordable options for addressing the medical language access needs of Indigenous speakers.

Beyond COVID: The continued need for Indigenous Interpretation

As the US heads into another fall in cases after the Omicron variant, the rise of telehealth during the two years of the pandemic is a trend that’s sticking around. As part of equal access to care, providers will need to consider their long-term plan for addressing the needs of growing Indigenous communities throughout the country. The pandemic exposed a disparity of healthcare access that medical interpretation can help close even as COVID becomes less of an immediate health threat for Latino communities.

How Boostlingo Can Help

With Boostlingo, you can quickly connect with a medical interpreter either over-the-phone (OPI) or via video remote, no matter where you’re located. Plus, we provide interpreting support for indigenous languages such as Mixteco Bajo, Mixteco Alto, and Quechua through our Boostlingo Professional Interpreting Network (BPIN).

Want to find out if Boostlingo is right for you? Get a demo today!