PolicyLab at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia released a report and accompanying policy brief last month outlining the unique needs of immigrants and people with limited English proficiency during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report was based on a survey conducted in June 2020, which asked immigrant community leaders and stakeholders working directly with these communities to identify major needs and barriers as well as their sources of strength and resilience. It also asked respondents to weigh in on possible solutions. While the survey focused on Pennsylvania, the results are relevant to states and communities across the country.
PolicyLab offered the following recommendations to help protect the health and well-being of immigrants and people with limited English proficiency by improving health care delivery in these communities and building a foundation to address future public health crises in an equitable manner.
Survey respondents experienced language barriers when receiving services, particularly for languages that are less commonly spoken, as well as challenges in accessing accurate, up-to-date translated information. This highlights the importance of:
- Collecting data on preferred language
- Expanding available language translation services
- Offering translations of relevant resources online
Survey respondents described many strengths and sources of resilience within their communities, including strong social networks and community ties, and close relationships to existing service organizations. This highlights the importance of:
- Treating community organizations as true partners
- Allowing community leaders to inform public health work
- Including community leaders in decision-making about program development and resource allocation
Many immigrants and people with limited English proficiency work in industries deemed essential, such as healthcare. They often hold jobs where they are more exposed to COVID-19 risks than their non-immigrant and English-speaking peers. This highlights the importance of:
- Investing in workplace safety protocols, such as personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Ensuring workers know their rights
Survey respondents described that many people in their communities experienced job losses or other loss of income during the pandemic. Most immigrants and their families are ineligible for pandemic relief bills, and many are also are wary of accessing services for which they are eligible for fear that it will negatively affect their future immigration petitions.
According to the report, fear of immigration authorities can prevent people from seeking appropriate care, including COVID-19 testing and vaccination. It is important to protect personal information and inform immigrants of how the information that is collected will be used.