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For Release:
September 06, 2006

Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D.

For Further Information Contact:
Gretchen Michael
Nathan Rudy

Minority & Multicultural Health Month: Breaking Language Barriers Helps Reduce Health Disparities


TRENTON New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D., today kicked off the Take Action campaign, unveiling a new website designed to help reduce health disparities. The new website, launched in celebration Minority and Multicultural Health Month, includes tools to assist in removing language barriers between patients and health care workers at New Jersey's hospitals.

"New Jersey has more than 850,000 residents with limited English proficiency, and more than 120 languages are spoken in the state," said Dr. Jacobs. "No matter their skill in speaking English, all New Jerseyans should be able to see the family doctor or go to an emergency room knowing they can communicate well enough to receive the same care as English speaking residents."

The Minority and Multicultural Sample Forms website, available today at, contains a number of standard forms used by health care providers to inform patients of their rights and to collect information necessary to provide health care services. The forms are translated into three languages: French Creole, Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. Each document is provided free of copyright, meaning health care providers can download, edit for their specific needs and use the forms free of charge.

The relationship between health care providers and their patients is built on communication and trust. Without the ability to accurately and completely understand each other, misdiagnoses and incorrect treatments can result.

When language is a barrier, it leads to frustration for both health care professionals and the patient. The frustration may cause patients to avoid returning to complete their care. Physicians and nurses may not understand the complaints, concerns or anxieties of patients. The result can be substandard health care outcomes, and disparities in care due solely to the language skills of the patient, health care worker and hospital.

The DHSS developed the website in partnership with the New Jersey Hospital Association and the Division of Academic Medicine, Geriatrics & Community Programs at UMDNJ. The three organizations will continue to identify valuable documents and additional languages to add to the website through the coming year.

"The forms translation website is a good start, but we have much work to do to breakdown language barriers in health care," said Commissioner Jacobs. "Over the next year we will be working with our health care partners to roll out initiatives addressing infrastructure, language skills and cultural competency at the Department and in the health care community which will result in improvements in health care delivery."

The DHSS encourages New Jersey residents to participate in health events this month to educate themselves about how to take action to improve their health. Activities people may want to participate in include scheduling doctor visits, getting regular exercise, eating healthy and nutritious meals and getting screened for diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, HIV/AIDs and other diseases which disproportionately impact minority communities.

The DHSS publishes a free calendar of Minority and Multicultural Health Month events statewide and it is available to individuals, legislators, community groups and participating organizations to help promote events. It is also available online at .


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