‘Communicative vulnerability’ in healthcare delivery

Mind the Gap: ‘Communicative Vulnerability’ and the Mediation of Linguistic/ Cultural Diversity in Healthcare Delivery – plenary by Professor Srikant Sarangi at the 11th Language & Development Conference, 2015

The conference so far has discussed multilingualism in education systems, but Professor Srikant Sarangi session helped us to broaden this discussion to other domains – from the classroom to the clinic.

Srikant Sarangi, Professor in Humanities and Medicine and Director of the Danish Institute of Humanities and Medicine (DIHM) at Aalborg University, Denmark

Srikant Sarangi, Professor in Humanities and Medicine and Director of the Danish Institute of Humanities and Medicine (DIHM) at Aalborg University, Denmark

Professor Sarangi started by acknowledging the relevance of discussions around multilingualism beyond education in the areas of healthcare and the current refugee crisis. The linguistic and cultural diversity has cost implications for health care professionals. He stressed that in ‘super diverse societies’, the objective is to maximise access without the help of formal or informal mediators.

Sarangi then talked about how in the European context, healthcare given by a ‘foreigner’ is perceived as poor quality and as substituting ‘mainstream’ healthcare. He identified these scenarios as evidence of the need for multi-cultural and multilingual communication research and training.

Sarangi discussed the ethical vulnerability of healthcare professionals and how mediation can sometimes leading to negative consequences. He acknowledges racism and discrimination among overseas healthcare professionals and states that legal action and judicial reviews have started to emerge against European mainstream health care bodies. Language clearly has a role to play in the construction and mediation of these situations.

Sarangi concluded by recommending questioning, training and assessments rather than stereotyping differences. He highlighted the need to raise awareness about inter-cultural interaction and stressed the importance of research in clinical practice. He also was clear that there is much that we know about learner-centred teaching which can be translated and transferred to the healthcare context.

Watch plenary speaker Srikant Sarangi’s session here:

Plenary speaker Srikant Sarangi’s interview can be viewed here:
Post by: Radhika Gholkar
The writer is the Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in West India

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