HHS takes steps to break down language barriers


In addition to updating department-wide language access plans, HHS is providing $4 million for a new language access initiative.

Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is announcing a number of measures to improve language access through HHS programs and advance the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of overcoming barriers to equity in health care and social services.

HHS is taking steps to improve meaningful communication with individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP) by reviving its Language Access Steering Committee (Steering Committee) to support HHS’s implementation of language access obligations under President Joe Biden’s recent Executive Orders (EOs), as well as other obligations under the HHS Equity Action Plan. As part of this steering committee, all HHS agencies will re-evaluate and update their language access plans to ensure LEP individuals have meaningful access to HHS-administered health and human services programs and activities.

Simultaneously, the HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH) is announcing more than $4 million in grants to 11 organizations for an initiative called Promoting Equitable Access to Language Services in Health and Human Services. This three-year initiative focuses on developing and testing methods for informing people with LEP about the availability of language access services in health care settings.

“We know that people with limited English proficiency are too often discriminated against when seeking health care and social services,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “The risk of misinformation, the wrong type of care, or total abandonment of care is high when language barriers persist. We implement policies to remove barriers to equitable care and leave no one behind.

It is a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for recipients of federal financial assistance to fail to take reasonable steps to provide meaningful access to people whose primary language is not English. English. In addition, Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act requires recipients of federal financial assistance to take reasonable steps to provide meaningful access to health programs and activities for people with limited English proficiency.

“Ensuring appropriate communication with patients who have limited English proficiency is essential to providing high quality care. Using unqualified people to interpret medical information can lead to misunderstandings, devastating results, and even death, said HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Director Melanie Fontes Rainer. “OCR is proud to lead the HHS Language Access Steering Committee and the Department’s work to exemplify ways organizations can evaluate their programs and develop language access plans to ensure people with LEP have access meaningful to their programs, without barriers or discrimination.

“With over 26 million people in the United States who do not speak English as their primary language and who have limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand English, people with limited English proficiency have a higher risk of experiencing health care disparities,” said Rear Admiral Felicia Collins, MD, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health. “By identifying innovative strategies to improve access to language services in health care, our new initiative will further support the OMH’s efforts to advance health equity for all.

Through the new OMH initiative, grantees will implement and evaluate strategies to improve language access services through policy development and implementation, use of technology, education of people with of LEP and education of providers, including medical support staff. Recipients must address health disparities among people with SLE and demonstrate the impact of these efforts on outcomes and the overarching goal of advancing health equity.

The beneficiaries of the Promoting Equitable Access to Language Services in OMH Health and Social Services initiative are:

Award recipient Town State Reward amount
Asian Resources, Inc. Sacramento California $375,000
Georgia State University Research Foundation, Inc. Atlanta Georgia $310,076
Asian Health Coalition Chicago HE $370,000
Wichita State University Wichita KS $375,000
Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. Baltimore MARYLAND $375,000
Tufts University Boston MY $374,929
Family Voice Inc. Lexington MY $375,000
New York University Grossman School of Medicine New York New York $374,998
West Carolina Medical Society Foundation Ashville CN $375,000
Thomas Jefferson University philadelphia cream Pennsylvania $375,000
Bexar County Hospital District DBA University Health San Antonio TX $375,000
Total: $4,055,003

Today’s actions help fulfill obligations under the following EOs: EO 13985, Promoting Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities through the Federal Government; EO 13166, Improving Access to Services for People with Limited English Proficiency; EO 14031, Promoting Equity, Justice, and Opportunity for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders; EO 13995, Ensuring Equitable Pandemic Response and Recovery; as well as the HHS Strategic Plan 2022-2026; and the 2013 HHS Language Access Plan.


The HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH) is dedicated to improving the health of racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of health policies and programs that will help eliminate health disparities. Through its demonstration projects, the OMH supports the identification of effective approaches to improving health outcomes and promotes the dissemination and sustainability of these approaches. For more information about OMH, visit www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov.

If you believe you have been discriminated against in programs or activities that HHS directly administers or to which HHS provides federal financial assistance, you may file a complaint. for yourself or someone else at: https://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/filing-a-complaint/index.html.


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