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Ethnic Minorities, Health & Communication

This report contains a summary of the findings of over 200 'research-based' studies in and health services delivery located within the English-language academic and practitioner-based literature relating to issues of communication between practitioners and members of minority ethnic groups or communities. It explicitly excludes all descriptive studies of particular cultures, clinical investigations of epidemiology, treatment or outcome, or other reports of health and disease in minority ethnic groups which did not consider the issue of 'communication' between patient (or community) and practitioner.

The issue of ‘Communication’ was intended to include concerns about consultation at a community level, to inform the development of planning and commissioning processes. This is clearly different from communicating at an individual level. Most research reports on Community Care and health policy issues refer to the need to access a ‘black perspective’ or take account of ethnic minority concerns. However, no research-based, or even properly evaluated local studies could be located, beyond descriptions of local initiatives seeking to address this issue. There may be good practice, but as yet it remains ‘developmental’ and cannot be considered to be ‘evidence-based’.

The structure of the report reflects the uneven spread of research. Certain issues, particularly the use of linkworkers as interpreters, 'language needs of South Asian communities', and nursing practice, seem to have been investigated more frequently than others. The discussion is organised around the three major themes identified: the needs of specific professional groups in the health service (Section 4); particular clinical issues (Section 5), and matters related to organisation and research (section 6). General conclusions are drawn, and specific recommendations put forward. The principal finding is that these issues of communication should become a fundamental part of any future planning and research, and indeed be addressed in, the training of health workers.

The majority of studies are not cited in the text, but their conclusions have been incorporated within the following list. While there remains some repetition, each recommendation has a distinct emphasis, and is supported by the evidence of a number of the studies reviewed.

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Individual views espoused in this article/paper do not necessarily reflect the views of the Portmir Foundation and have been included to represent the variety of different opinions that may exist on a single issue. In accordance with our democratic charter, the Portmir Foundation values debate in a spirit of mutual tolerance and understanding, even when such views contradict those of the Foundation.  

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