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To Your Health: UNC DVD Helping Break Language Barriers

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — You might be able to get past language barriers when ordering food or asking for directions, but not when you need health care. The University of North Carolina Medical School is working to break down that barrier.

UNC already puts a high priority on teaching medical students Spanish. Now, through a new interactive DVD program called

¡A Su Salud!

, those already working in hospitals and clinics can learn the language as well.

¡A Su Salud!, which means "To Your Health!", was developed at UNC to help health providers across the country learn Spanish.

"Fifteen percent of our patients are Latino. To interpose an interpreter between the physician and the patient, it really puts up an artificial barrier," said Dr. Judith Tintinalli, UNC Department of Emergency Medicine chairwoman.

Tintinalli is among the program's students. Each day, she watches the videos, completes interactive exercises and practices her Spanish with another student by phone.

An entertaining soap opera's main purpose is to educate. The dramatic stories do more than give students an ear for the language. They also gain understanding of the Latino culture.

"You know, how we talk to each other," said Andrea Bazan-Manso, executive director of El Pueblo. "We use our hands a lot and we look at each other's eyes a lot more directly, perhaps, than other cultures."

UNC's medical school already has a Spanish immersion program for its first year medical students. They spend three weeks in Mexico, then part of a summer working in clinics serving Spanish-speaking patients.

¡A Su Salud! can help up-and-coming doctors as well as established health care providers. Most encounter Latino patients on a daily basis and experience the frustrations of limited communication.

"You can't possibly provide care for someone that you can't properly communicate with," Bazan-Manson said.


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