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Quality Health Care: Language Matters Too! Campaign


At Issue:  Little or No Access to French-language Services

Access to French-language health services is severely limited; in most areas, they are non-existent. Yet, health needs are evident in all segments of Alberta’s French-speaking population. Read Brief


Language Barriers:  Adverse Impact on Health

There has been little or no health care investment in the French language, a must-have tool in providing patient-centered care to the French-speaking population. This adversely affects its health, the quality and effectiveness of care it receives as well as the security of patients. Read


No Active Offer of Health Care and No Patient Demand

For the most part, French-speaking health care providers are not routinely engaging Francophone patients in their language. And patients have no expectation of receiving care in their language. So they don’t ask for it. The offer / ask reflex is simply not there on either side.


Other Challenge:  HR Scarcity

Many Francophone patients search in vain for French-speaking health care providers—they are rare. And harder still to find because it is not common practice to openly signal one’s ability to speak French.

The lack of patient demand is not proof of lack of need. When given an option, the Francophone population overwhelmingly chooses French-language services. The existence of a French-language education system is proof of that.


Studies show that linguistically appropriate care leads to many benefits including the following:

  • More accurate assessment of patients’ state of health
  • Fewer diagnostic errors
  • Better understanding of diagnosis and treatment compliance
  • More effective use of health care resources
  • Improved health outcomes
  • Lower health care costs.


What Health Care Providers Can Do

Amazing what can be achieved when we put our minds to it individually and collectively. Every action counts and it all adds up to positive change. It can be as simple as adding Bonjour! when greeting a patient.


Small Steps:  Big Impact

Patients are actively searching for French-speaking health care providers. If you are one, here are two simple ideas that can make a huge difference in their lives:.

  • Ensure you are listed as a French-speaking health care professional in the servicesenfrançais.ca directory under the Health heading to make it easier for patients in your area to find you.
  • Share your experience and views as a health care provider. It’s easy, fast and very helpful because it allows us to collect reliable data about key issues such as access to French-language health care and the active offer of services.


 Active Offer of Services: Anticipating Patient Needs

  • Tips when greeting patients:
      • Welcome the patient in both languages. When the patient responds to either, follow his or her lead


      • Let patients know you speak their language by way of a poster and/or other display tools on the counter and elsewhere in the reception area. Réseau santé albertain can provide helpful tools, free of charge. Interested? E-mail a request at info@reseausantealbertain.ca.


      • Be proactive and persistent. The habit of not expecting and not asking for services in French has long been engrained in Francophone patients. It may take a few more attempts.


      • Don’t worry about your accent and proficiency in French. Patients will appreciate the effort and enjoy their relationship with you as a health care provider all the more.


  • Tips on Promoting the Active Offer of French-language Health Services:
    • Bilingual members on your staff are clearly identified, e.g. by a pin or tag.
    • Bilingual information is posted in public areas, e.g. at reception, in waiting rooms, etc.
    • Literature display stands are stocked with bilingual information.
  • Tips on Facilitating Access to Services:
    • Telephone and in-person greetings are bilingual.
    • So is the voice mail message.
    • Documents are made public in a bilingual format.
    • Correspondence is sent in patients’ preferred language, or in a bilingual format.
    • Information on your web site is available in French also
    • Recruitment efforts focus on hiring qualified staff members who also have the ability to speak French.

Looking to build or expand your capacity to provide linguistically appropriate care to Francophone patients?

Let’s talk about it! Send us an e-mail at info@reseausantealbertain.ca.

We are a provincial network working to improve access to French-language health services in partnership with health care providers and the Alberta government.

You can count on our support.