Site translates health care info
- By Nicholas Morehead
- Jul 17, 2001
Minnesota is making it easier for people who don't speak English to visit
its Department of Human Services Web site for health care information.
Links from the site's home page (www.dhs.state.mn.us)
enable people to apply for or renew their health insurance in Arabic, Hmong,
Khmer, Lao, Russian, Somali, Spanish and Vietnamese in addition to English.
Stephanie Radtke, electronic government services manager for the health
care eligibility and access division of Human Services, said the department
picked those languages because, after English, they are the most commonly
spoken in Minnesota. Radtke said that the state has the largest population
of Somalis in the United States, for example.
Radtke said that federal nondiscrimination laws prompted the department
to translate the forms more than a year ago. But when a consortium of people
who speak English as a second language sued the state, claiming that the
translated information was still too difficult to find, the department made
translated links available on its home page. The lawsuit has been settled.
"So what we did is essentially reduce the number of links dramatically
for [people] to get to the translated forms they need," Radtke said.
Rather than use a less-than-perfect translation application, such as
Babel Fish from AltaVista Co., Minnesota hired translators to do the work.
"This isn't done on the fly," Radtke said. "These are official government
forms relating to a sensitive area and we can't afford errors."
Radtke said the operation was "fairly inexpensive," with the translations
constituting the bulk of the work and costing about $60,000. Linking the
material from the home page cost about $500.
Iowa added the Babel Fish translation
feature to its site in February, enabling visitors to translate material
into French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Korean, Japanese and
Chinese. California and Arizona and other government sites have portions
of their Web sites available in Spanish.
Radtke said that state officials are considering translating more of
the site and may make video available for download with translated audio.
She also said she is looking into partnering with local community aid organizations
to create Web sites that provide translated information on insurance.
"To most [people who don't speak English] in our state, these are foreign
concepts," Radtke said. "They usually have no idea what an HMO is, or [what]
a primary care provider means, and so we want to include information that
will provide the education they would need to better apply for health care."