16Réseau santé albertain today launched its most ambitious undertaking to date, a two-pronged campaign designed to encourage health care providers who speak French to engage patients in their language whenever possible, and to promote patient demand for French-language health services, especially in the context of a provincial health system as strongly committed as Alberta is to patient-centered care.
The campaign, which will extend to conventional and social media as well the web, conveys a strong message about the vital link between health and language, calling on all stakeholders to take action. The lack of French-language health services is having an adverse impact on the health of Alberta’s Francophone population. The situation is challenging: health care professionals who speak French are scarce, and actively engaging Francophone patients in their language is not common practice. Patient demand is practically non-existent; since French-language health services are absent in most areas of Alberta, patients know not to ask.
Réseau santé albertain views this as the single most important health care challenge facing the Francophone population. The newly-launched campaign seeks to demonstrate that simple steps can have a big impact. “Some of our greatest accomplishments have started with small steps, for instance French-language education which is now a fact of life. What we are saying to health care providers is this: if you speak another language, use it as a tool. And what we are saying to Francophone patients is speak up; let your health care system know what patient-centered care means to you. The more we do, the greater our impact,” explained Dr. Denis Vincent, Chairman of the Board.
Réseau santé albertain believes that the time is ripe for action. Alberta has a growing French-speaking population; health needs are rapidly increasing too, and there is universal recognition of language as a key component of quality health care. Also, Alberta Health Services adopted a patient-centered care framework and action plan in 2012, identifying Francophones as a vulnerable population requiring targeted chronic disease prevention and management, primary and community care programming.
The campaign leads stakeholders to languagematterstoo.ca, Réseau santé albertain’s new web site, where they can access information, tools and advocacy strategies. The site offers visitors a more interactive experience through surveys, opinion sharing and opportunities to connect with others including French-speaking health care providers in their area. An arsenal of practical tools is available online including display tools, posters, post cards and issue briefs, everything one needs to influence public opinion and advocate for more patient-centered health care locally and beyond.
Language Barriers: Adverse Effects
Research shows that language barriers adversely impact the quality and effectiveness of care, access to services as well as the safety of patients. As stated by noted researcher Sarah Bowen in a major study commissioned by Health Canada, these barriers are affecting the health of vulnerable population groups such as Francophones. In Canada and North America, studies have shown that there are many steps in the health care process where things can go wrong, and at each step language barriers can lead to miscommunication. The end result is poor quality care.
French-Language Health Care: Better Outcomes
The benefits of providing linguistically appropriate health care are well documented, leading to a healthier population, better use of health care resources, a more efficient health care system, and lower health care costs. According to Réseau santé albertain’s Executive Director, Luc Therrien, also a health care practitioner, studies show that tailoring health programming to a patient’s language and culture leads to a better experience for all concerned. Effective communication between practitioner and patient also means shorter visits, decreased use of emergency services and improved quality of care.
Calling All Stakeholders to Action
Everyone has a role to play in ensuring all Albertans have access to more patient-centered care. Beginning this fall and through to 2018, Réseau santé albertain will work with all stakeholders — health care providers, the Francophone population and the health care system — to develop French-language health services, to promote patient demand and to implement tailored health programming. For information, tips and tools, go to languagematterstoo.ca.
For more than a decade, Réseau santé albertain, mandated as the lead organization in health by the Association canadienne-française de l’Alberta (ACFA), has been working collaboratively with the health care system and providers, advocating for patient-centered care tailored to the Francophone population’s specific needs. With the help of volunteers and funding support from Health Canada through Société Santé en français, we build awareness and engage stakeholders in an effort to improve access to French-language health services. Learn more at reseausantealbertain.ca.
For more information about the health needs of Alberta’s Francophone population, providing targeted health programming and overcoming language barriers, consult:
- reseausantealbertain.ca to access Health Needs Assessment Report
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