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Bilingual Clinic at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Breaks Down Cultural Barriers to Health Care for Hispanic Communities

Region's first pediatric bilingual clinic provides health care for Spanish speaking families

A bilingual primary care clinic at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and a new mobile clinic for Hispanic and Latino families is improving their access to essential pediatric health care services through Spanish-speaking physicians and nurses.

The Pittsburgh region's Hispanic population has expanded greatly in recent years and approximately one-third of them are children under age 18, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Many of these families have difficulty accessing health care because of cultural and language barriers or lack of insurance, according to Diego Chaves-Gnecco, MD, MPH, a Children's pediatric resident.

Dr. Chaves-Gnecco, a native of Colombia, founded Children's bilingual clinic for Spanish-and Portuguese-speaking patients in the summer of 2002 and this year it has grown to more than 100 patients. In late 2004, he also organized a mobile clinic that provides primary care to Hispanic and Latino children on the South Side. This program, offered by the Children's Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, is known by its Spanish name, Salud Para Niños (Health for Children).

"Pittsburgh's Hispanic and Latino populations have largely been an 'invisible community' because they are spread across the region and not in a centralized location. But it is a community that is growing quickly and we're concerned about their access to health care," Dr. Chaves-Gnecco said. "Our goal is to overcome language barriers to health care. By offering a bilingual clinic, we can improve their access and do it in a culturally sensitive way."

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Southwestern Pennsylvania's Hispanic population grew by 44 percent between 1990 and 2000, from 12,099 to 17,500.

Children's bilingual clinic operates Tuesday afternoons in the hospital's Primary Care Center. It is staffed by Dr. Chaves-Gnecco and two other Children's pediatric residents, Roberto Ortiz-Aguayo, MD, a native of Puerto Rico, and Isabela Cajiao, MD, a native of Colombia. The clinic offers well child and sick child visits, immunizations, lead screenings, vision and hearing screenings, sports and school physicals and other primary care. But Dr. Chaves-Gnecco said the clinic does more than simply care for the child medically.

"We focus on the health and well-being of the entire family. We help them understand when they qualify for insurance programs, we offer Hispanic car seat safety checks and we provide their children with bilingual books," Dr. Chaves-Gnecco said.

For his efforts to establish a bilingual clinic, Dr. Chaves-Gnecco is the recipient of the 2004 Anne E. Dyson Child Advocacy Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) as well as a 2004 Community Access To Child Health (CATCH) program grant for residents from the AAP.

Last Update
February 25, 2008
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Last Update
February 25, 2008