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Universal Health Symbols for Limited English Proficiency

People with limited English proficiency face many challenges; one of the most significant can be navigating hospitals and other health care facilities. Complicated directions and confusing terminology can make it difficult for non-English speakers to get the care they need in a timely manner. Hablamos Juntos, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has developed and tested 28 universal health care symbols representing important hospital destinations.

Three hundred participants from four language groups: English, Spanish, Indo-European and Asian languages provided input on the comprehension value of candidate symbols. Seventeen of the 28 symbols could be understood by at least 87% of the multilingual testers. The results were impressive:

  • More than 75% of people tested felt the symbols were more effective than text: -symbols were easier to see and understand.
  • More than 80% of hospital staff tested felt that symbols would ease the process of giving directions to patients and visitors.
  • To read download the workbook and symbols: Universal Symbols in Health Care

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