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Researchers explore impacts of language barriers on health care in Ontario

March 27, 2014

Language barriers between patients and health-care providers can pose significant challenges for health care quality. Researchers in Ontario are exploring the impact of this issue on our provincial health system. Using data from the 2006 Census, researchers at the Centre for Research in Inner City Health in Toronto, found that language barriers may be a significant issue for health care in a number of Ontario municipalities.

Language barriers may be a significant issue for health care in a number of Ontario municipalities.

The top five languages spoken by non-English and non-French speakers in Ontario are Italian, Chinese, Punjabi, Portuguese and Spanish. Researchers mapped the locations of these individuals across Ontario’s municipalities, and compared these maps with the availability of primary care physicians who speak these languages.

In particular, researchers identified a need for Portuguese-speaking physicians in a number of Ontario municipalities such as Waterloo. It was also identified that primary care physicians who speak the other languages are needed in many municipalities, although in some cases due to smaller populations.

Policy implications of the research include increasing the availability of professional interpreters and physician education on the use of interpreters; increasing enrollment of priority-language speaking individuals in medical school; exploring whether international medical graduates could complete requirements to practice in ‘underserved areas’ in areas of language need.

To view a summary of this research study, please visit the Centre for Research in Inner City Health website.

The full article is also available on the BioMedCentral website.

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