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Take One Hour Before Eating: Pharmacies in Translation

February 8, 2011

A pharmacy association writes a prescription for better health care.

Pharmacy Translation Kit

Pharmacy Translation Kit

Community pharmacists are an essential service that we often take for granted. In New Zealand alone, they provide direct consultative advice to over 85 per cent of the population.

And while today’s medicines can prevent illness, cure serious diseases and control chronic conditions – all of this can only happen if the medications are taken correctly and with an complete understanding of unique needs of the patient. Yet the WHO estimates that 50 % of patients with chronic conditions do not properly follow their prescribed treatment.

In Auckland, community pharmacists realised that as the diversity of their client base was rapidly increasing, it would be even more difficult to ensure that all clients, including people with limited English, understood how to take their medication properly. To find a solution, they turned to their voluntary professional association, the Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand, to which 75% of community pharmacists belonged.

The Guild responded to the front line needs of their members by developing a research project with the help of the National School of Pharmacy at the University of Otago and identified six languages to focus their efforts. Following the feedback from their members, a basic list of phrases and questions was expanded to include another language (Hindi) as well as provide a comprehensive coverage of the questions, instructions and warnings often used in pharmacist-patient communication. General greetings in each of the languages were added to assist the pharmacist to establish verbal rapport with customers.

Launched in October 2008, the Pharmacy Translation Kit contains seventy-six words and phrases translated into Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Maori, Samoan and Tongan. It includes basic greetings, questions about medical history, information about prescriptions, instructions for using medicines and explanations about what medicines do.

For example, a phrase such as ‘Do not stop taking this medicine, even if you feel better’ is translated into each language, each colour-coded differently. The phrases are also divided into different categories to make them easy to find.

The Pharmacy Translation Kit was sent out to 150 pharmacies with the Chinese translations used most often. According to Pharmacy Guild President Ian Johnson, the project did help pharmacists break down the language barriers and get their message across. Despite its success, the Pharmacy Guild has not yet reprinted the kit, although it does plan scoping out further interest with members this year.

A professional association creating its own translation kit – now that’s definitely a Good Idea worth watching!

For further information, contact the Pharmacy Guild Of New Zealand at: membership(at)pgnz.org.nz.

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