Lifting the voices of Spanish-speaking Kansans: A community-engaged approach to health equity

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Showstack, Rachel E.
Duque, Silvia
Keene Woods, Nikki
López, Ana
Chesser, Amy K.

Showstack, R., Duque, S., Keene Woods, N., López, A., & Chesser, A. (2021). Lifting the voices of Spanish-speaking Kansans: A community-engaged approach to health equity. Multilingua, doi:10.1515/multi-2021-0082


An important component of social justice research is centering the voices of those individuals whose lives the research is intended to improve, not as subjects from whom researchers collect data but as active participants in a process of understanding and addressing issues of concern to the community. This ideal of community engagement slows the pace of dissemination of traditional social science or sociolinguistic scholarship but also allows scholars and community members to collaborate to identify and implement meaningful solutions to community problems. We describe a process of engagement of Spanish-speaking patients, interpreters, and healthcare providers in developing a health equity agenda for Spanish speakers in Kansas, grounded in a community-based participatory approach called Patient-Centered Outcomes Research. Stakeholders were engaged through sharing and amplifying their testimonios, stories that tied personal experiences of encountering language barriers in healthcare with calls to action, and they contributed to decisions about what to do with the stories and how to respond to the problems they identified. The result of our engagement process is the formation of a community-based team that has amplified the voices of Spanish-speaking patients and families to reach a range of audiences and responded to a number of evolving community needs. We provide recommendations for language researchers interested in pursuing community-engaged work and explore the possibilities for aligning such work with the expectations of academic institutions.

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