News Center for Community Health Partnership & Research Health Equity

Center helps promote the development of language access plans to benefit immigrants

Written by Kim Furlow, communications manager for the Institute for Public Health

Staff from the Center for Community Health Partnership and Research at the Institute for Public Health are helping the Immigrant Service Providers Network (ISPN) meet their goals of creating a language access plan for the city and county. The language access plan will ultimately benefit St. Louis residents who have limited English proficiency (LEP). Toward this end, center staff are participating on the ISPN’s Language Justice Committee. Some of the committee’s goals include:

  • Assist area organizations in developing a language access policy of their own by connecting them to the ISPN language access policy to use as a template
  • Create statewide ties to support language justice issues in the court and hospital systems throughout Missouri

So, exactly what is a language access policy?

Lizzie Warner is program manager for the Immigrant Home English Learning Program, an ISPN member agency, and she leads the Language Justice Committee. Warner says the ISPN language access policy, for example, includes best practices for document translation; in-person, audio or video translation by recommended resources; and offers suggestions for developing and maintaining a language access plan for any organization.

Currently, Warner says, St. Louis does not have appropriate systems in place to help individuals with limited English proficiency. The ISPN Language Justice Committee is working toward changing that.

The St. Louis community is best served when we can offer equitable language processes. This means that community organizations and government agencies have a clear path to interpretation and translation services. ISPN members can begin by creating and implementing a language policy of their own…and advocate with us for broader change to the [language access] systems in the St. Louis Region.”

Lizzie Warner, program manager, Immigrant Home English Learning Program

Warner adds that assistance from the Center for Community Health Partnership and Research has been helpful in encouraging other agencies and community organizations to develop a plan of their own. The center has compiled some language access and interpretation resources in the Community-Engaged Research library guide to help agencies develop their own  policies.

The ISPN is currently working with the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County officials to create and implement a language access plan. Meanwhile, ISPN members, like the Center for Community Health Partnership & Research, are committed to bringing awareness to the support of language justice throughout the state.

Language justice means that our immigrant neighbors have the ability to live independent lives in their new home. It’s an equity issue, and we want to see our LEP neighbors treated as humanely as those who speak fluent English.

Lizzie Warner