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There are few drug stores around the country that provide medical instructions in Spanish. This is a limiting factor for Hispanics, according to a recent study by the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago.
The study found that more than half of the drugstores in states with the highest Hispanic populations could not translate any labels, or could only make a limited number of translations.
The study was focused on states with a large Latino population, such as Texas and Colorado, and states with a fast-growing Latino population, such as Georgia and North Carolina.
“The lack of translation for prescription medication instructions is a major problem,” said Stacy Cooper Bailey, study leader and director of the study center at Northwestern’s Feinberg School. “If you don’t know how to take your medications correctly, it is going to be difficult for you to manage your medical condition. Taking medications incorrectly could cause serious problems or even death,” Cooper Bailey added in a press release.
Over time, after carrying out a comprehensive analysis, they concluded that the situation is worse than they thought. A total of 764 drugstores were analyzed, including national chains in four states.
The study found that 34 percent, or approximately 267 drugstores, could not offer any type of translation service; 27 percent, or approximately 66 drugstores, offered limited translation service; and 43 percent, or approximately 331 drugstores, stated that they offered some type of translation. This represents a total of 28 percent of independent drugstores and 72 percent of drugstores which belonged to a regional or local chain.
The figures also indicated that at least 44 percent of drugstores located in counties where the Latino population surpasses a quarter of the population were limited in their ability to provide instructions in Spanish.
“The numbers are much worse than I anticipated,” Bailey said. “A lot of effort has gone into improving language services in hospitals, but pharmacies have been overlooked,” said the professor, who added that a large majority of people take medications, and it is the job of drugstores to provide this service, knowing that when taking medicine, the translation in very important.
One of the major issues encountered was that a vast majority of drugstores do not understand the Spanish translations. They worried about providing incorrect information and then being sued. “Pharmacies also may not be aware of software programs that offer translations,” the professor said.
However, for those who speak other languages, the subject of translations is even worse. “We have to provide instructions for the medications in many languages, not only in Spanish,” she said.
In the study, the passage of new laws is proposed so that the number of translations in drugstores may increase. At the same time, more effort should be made to help drugstores offer these services.