You are here: Home / Communications / News / Translation Please? Improving Access to Health Information

Translation Please? Improving Access to Health Information

A survey about multilingual health information will be sent to local health districts in the Pacific Northwest on April 10 as part of the TransPHorm research project.

A survey about multilingual health information will be sent to local health districts in the Pacific Northwest on April 10 as part of the TransPHorm research project.

April 6, 2012

In an effort to improve access to multilingual health information, University of Washington researchers will conduct a survey to better understand current communication and translation practices in public health. This survey, which will be sent to local health districts in the Pacific Northwest on April 10, is another exciting step in the TransPHorm project.

"Despite the need for translated public health materials, health departments face challenges providing accurate, multilingual health information due to lack of time and resources. The goal of this survey is to learn from local departments in Health and Human Services Region 10 (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska) about their modes of communication and translation so we can design systems to assist the translation process," said Anne Turner, MD, MLIS, MPH, one of the primary investigators of the study.

"The vast majority of health information is available only in English, which can make obtaining accurate and up-to-date health information very difficult for the over 46 million people living in the US with limited English proficiency," said Turner.

The aim of the TransPHorm project, a collaborative research project funded by National Library of Medicine and conducted by principal investigators Turner and Katrin Kirchhoff, PhD, is to study the use of machine translation (known as statistical machine translation technology) to translate public health materials.

If the UW-based machine translation technology proves to be effective in providing accurate, cost-effective translations in a timely manner, it would have the potential to greatly improve access to multilingual public health materials.

In the first year of the project, TransPHorm researchers interviewed 22 staff from the health department in Seattle, Wash., to identify current translation activities and processes. More interviews are now being conducted with Washington State’s Department of Health, with plans to also interview individuals at a rural health department. Researchers want to assess feasibility and barriers associated with incorporating automated translation into public health practice.

STORY TO SHARE?

We love public health stories! We feature them in our postcard series, Spotlight on the Field, and news items. Please contact us to share your story!