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Cultural racism, language prejudice and discrimination in hospital contexts : an Australian study

journal contribution
posted on 2008-03-01, 00:00 authored by Megan-Jane JohnstoneMegan-Jane Johnstone, O Kanitsaki
This article explores the idea that racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare may be expressive of unacknowledged practices of cultural racism. In conducting this exploration, the researchers identify, describe and discuss the practice of language prejudice and discrimination by health service providers, discovered serendipitously in the context of a broader study exploring cultural safety and cultural competency in an Australian healthcare context. The original study involved individual and focus groups interviews with 145 participants recruited from over 17 different organisational and domestic home sites. Participants included health service managers, ethnic liaison officers, qualified health interpreters, cultural trainers/educators, ethnic welfare organisation staff, registered nurses, allied health professionals, and healthcare consumers. Participants self-identified as being from over 27 different ethnocultural and language backgrounds.

Analysis of the data revealed that English language proficiency, like skin colour, was used as a social marker to classify, categorise, and negatively evaluate people of non-English speaking backgrounds (NESB) in the contexts studied. Negative evaluations, in turn, were used to justify the exclusion of NESB people from healthcare relationships and resources. Further data analysis revealed that underpinning the negative attitudes and behaviours in hospital domains concerning people who spoke accented English or who did not speak English proficiently were a dislike of difference, fear of difference, intolerance of difference, fear of competition for scarce healthcare resources, repressed hostility toward difference, and ignorance.

Highlighting the implications of language prejudice for the safety and quality care of NESB people, the researchers call for further internationally comparative research and debate on the subject.

History

Journal

Diversity in health and social care

Volume

5

Issue

1

Pagination

19 - 30

Publisher

Radcliffe Publishing Ltd

Location

Abingdon, England

ISSN

1743-1913

Language

eng

Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2008, Radcliffe Publishing

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