The 2000 Census reports that 47% of all New York City households speak a language other than English in the home, and one out of every four New Yorkers do not speak English at all. As the City’s demographics have shifted over the years, complaints about access to health care for immigrants have intensified.
In particular, immigrant New Yorkers have suffered from inadequate translation and interpretation services at New York City’s numerous pharmacies for many years now. During the Summer and Fall of 2007, Spanish-speaking members and organizers from Make the Road New York spoke with dozens of Limited English Proficient (LEP) residents in Brooklyn and Queens to learn more about their experiences trying to obtain medications at New York City pharmacies. In addition, community-based organizations from the New York Immigration Coalition’s Health Collaborative shared stories about how their members also experienced problems accessing pharmacy services in a language they could understand.
Bad Medicine presents some of the stories we heard during these conversations, all of which eloquently demonstrate how the lack of translated labels and interpretation services can impair access to high-quality health care for immigrant families. Bad Medicine also briefly surveys the local, state and federal laws that require pharmacies to provide language assistance services for LEP New Yorkers, and describes our advocacy efforts to enforce these laws and improve the situation.