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Local Health Department Translation Processes: Potential of Machine Translation Technologies to Help Meet Needs

AM Turner, H Mandel, and D Capurro (2013)
AMIA Annual Symposium Proceedings:1378-1385.

Limited English proficiency (LEP), defined as a limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand English, is associated with health disparities. Despite federal and state requirements to translate health information, the vast majority of health materials are solely available in English. This project investigates barriers to translation of health information and explores new technologies to improve access to multilingual public health materials. We surveyed all 77 local health departments (LHDs) in the Northwest about translation needs, practices, barriers and attitudes towards machine translation (MT). We received 67 responses from 45 LHDs. Translation of health materials is the principle strategy used by LHDs to reach LEP populations. Cost and access to qualified translators are principle barriers to producing multilingual materials. Thirteen LHDs have used online MT tools. Many respondents expressed concerns about the accuracy of MT. Overall, respondents were positive about its potential use, if low costs and quality could be assured.

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