A recent study published by the journal Pediatrics highlights a problem that affects not only children, but also many older immigrants around the world.  The study looked at 286 pharmacies that serve the Latino community in the New York City borough of The Bronx.  Many of these pharmacies provide their customers with Spanish-language translations of the medical directions for the medication being used.  However, the researchers found that the overwhelming majority (86%) of these pharmacies used computer programs to create these translations and that 50% of the Spanish-language directions provided contained misspellings or grammatical errors.

An article in the Chicago Tribune shows how these errors can quickly become hazardous.  An English-language “instruction to take iron “once” a day would mean one time.”  However, “in  Spanish, once means 11.”  As a result, an electronic translation may instruct the patient to take 11 doses of iron per day.  “It could be harmful for a patient to take 11 doses of iron a day,” highlights the study’s lead researcher.     According to the study,  “misspellings also created errors.”  “Instead of the word boca, which means “mouth” in Spanish,” some translated labels used poca, which means “little.”  “Other words and phrases — including “dropperfuls,” “take with food,” “apply topically,” “for 7 days” and “apply to affected areas” — were not translated into Spanish at all,” found the researchers.

Share yous thoughts on these findings with IAHSA.  Is there an immigrant or language minority group in your community that is affected by a similar dilemma?  What steps can be taken to improve this situation?  Do you know anyone who has received incorrect medical instructions?

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Chicago Tribune