How to say insurance in 34 languages

Public Health’s Penny Lara (left) chats with a representative from the Chinese media.

When most people hear the words “health insurance” their eyes glaze over. It’s not fun to talk about, and it’s not easy. So what’s a county to do when more than 180,000 residents will qualify for affordable health insurance in just a few short months?

In King County, one in five people don’t speak English at home, and many of those folks don’t speak English very well at all. In fact, more than 160,000 King County residents speak Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Somali, Korean, Russian, Ukrainian, Tagalog or another African language (but have limited English proficiency at best).

This means health enrollment messages have to be translated into 34 languages. Talk about eyes glazing over.

KUOW reporter Ruby de Luna spoke with Mohammed Yussef, editor in chief of the Runta, and Teresa Jones from Seattle’s Univision about how they’ll go about weaving these new words into their communities’ lexicons:

If it’s even confusing for a North American who grew up in this country,” Jones says, “imagine somebody who’s never had access to this type of health care or maybe just got their papers for living in this country. It’s a huge task.

Calling all ethnic media!

Reporters and editors from ethnic newspapers and TV stations gathered one sunny August afternoon to meet representatives from the Washington Health Benefit Exchange and Public Health – Seattle & King County.

They learned how enrollment process will work, previewed the Washington Healthplanfinder website, and asked questions relevant to specific communities.

Chandler Felt, King County, 2012

Click to enlarge.

The reporters and editors face one of the most profound communications efforts in the recent history of healthcare. They’re well aware of their central role in helping their communities learn about the new health insurance system, as they know the most about reaching ethnic communities.

They began reaching out via social media posts (including the Facebook post from Washington Hispanic Media Association below). More stories are appearing in print, online and on the airwaves.

“The ethnic media are the voices and leaders of their communities,” says Meredith Li-Vollmer, public information officer at Public Health – Seattle & King County. “Their audiences listen to what they say, and they value their opinions. I’m excited to learn from them and build stronger relationships with them so that we can work together beyond enrollment.”

Now THAT’s eye-opening.

Social media posts on healthcare

Facebook update on health insurance from Washington Hispanic Media Association.


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