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English Classes for Foreign-born Uninsured Free Clinic Patients in the United States: A Qualitative Study

In an effort to reform patient-provider communication, most notably in underrepresented populations, a series of English classes were offered to patients of a metropolitan free clinic in the intermountain region of the United States (U.S.). A cohort of sociological studies undergraduates, graduate students and professors from a local university assembled to conduct research in the summer of 2018. Fifty-two participants enrolled in 39 classes, with 35 participants completing a comprehensive survey. In addition, pre-class surveys, field notes and class satisfaction surveys were collected to accurately capture participant characteristics, evaluate class quality and identify participants’ motivation, needs/challenges, or barriers to learning English in their U.S. community. The classes elicited mostly positive feedback with the majority of participants showing excitement, motivation to continue, and inquiry as to future classes at the clinic. Field note findings indicated that language proficiency is essential to communication in clinical and communal settings. Due to the qualitative nature of this study, participants were able to express personal recounts of barriers and challenges to learning English. The study also resulted in several implications for holistic improvements in future classes offered to the free clinic patients.


Ha N. Trinh, Sullivan Howard, Sayro Paw, Samin Panahi, Edward Lee, Jeanie Ashby and Akiko Kamimura

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