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Parents' Limited English May Prolong Child's Hospital Stay

THURSDAY, May 5 (HealthDay News) -- Children have longer hospital stays if their parents or other main caregivers have poor English language skills, a U.S. study finds.

The research, published in the May issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, included almost 1,300 children admitted to a children's hospital in the Midwest for treatment of infections requiring long-term antibiotics.

Among the parents or primary caregivers of those children, about 97 percent were proficient in English and the rest had limited English proficiency. The parents/caregivers with poorer English were more likely to be Hispanic and either uninsured or covered by Medicaid.

The median length of hospital stay for all patients was about four days, but was about six days for children with less fluent parents, said the researchers from Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Mo.

The study also found that children of parents with less-than-proficient English were less likely to receive a home health care referral than those with English-proficient parents (6.9 percent vs. 32.6 percent).

The researchers noted that a language other than English is now spoken in 14 million U.S. households by more than 55 million -- about one in five -- U.S. residents. Nearly half of those people say they have limited English proficiency or speak English less than well.

As this group continues "growing exponentially, the medical community must ensure that all patients with [limited English proficiency] receive adequate interpreter services," the study authors concluded. "Increasing the number and quality of trained medical interpreters and translators, improving the infrastructure for a multilingual approach to care, and further minimizing multi-tiered care based on language are important areas for advocacy."

More information

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality outlines efforts to improve access to language services in health care.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, news release, May 2, 2011

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