That,s worrisome to Kathy Schwartz, director of Wasco Sherman Public Health Department.
,It,s our job to communicate to the public, and if you,re not communicating to everyone, that has consequences for everyone,, she
said. For example, said Schwartz
, in the event of a pandemic or bioterror attack, if a quarantine order were issued in English only, those who couldn,t understand wouldn,t follow it , ,and that has consequences for the entire public.Diseases don,t have lines.,Nor does salmonella.The Public Health Department gives written tests to restaurant workers, ensuring that they understand how to keep kitchens germ-free.The tests are translated into Chinese, Spanish, Filipino and other languages as needed.If given only in English, said Schwartz
, the tests would be ineffective , and eating out would be a lot less appetizing.
Language is also crucial to ensuring consent, Schwartz
said, as Public Health counsels clients on delicate issues like pregnancy, cancer and HIV/AIDS.,It,s our duty for our clients to understand what they,re consenting to,, she
said. ,It,s a basic right.Even those immigrants who speak English may need non-English services in emergency situations, Schwartz
added, when miscommunication could have dire consequences.,You know, I speak Spanish , I studied it for 15 years,, Schwartz reflected. ,And still, if I were in Mexico and found myself in a severe health situation, I would want to communicate in my native language , English.,The department,s office is spangled with bilingual signs and brochures.According to Schwartz
, 48 percent of Public Health visitors identify themselves as Spanish speakers.As visitors approach the reception window, they,re greeted by a large poster advertising interpretation services ranging from Arabic to Vietnamese.Ten of the department,s 28 employees speak Spanish and English; others speak French, Dutch, and a scattering of African and Caribbean languages.Asked to consider an English-only Public Health Department, Schwartz
paused. ,I can,t even imagine a health-care setting like that,, she