American Public Health Association
131st Annual Meeting and Exposition
San Franciso, CA
November 15-19, 2003

3058.0: Monday, November 17, 2003 - 8:45 AM

Abstract #56239

Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI) effective in improving Spanish language and cultural competency of health care providers: Findings of a pilot study

Claudia S. Plaisted Fernandez, MS, RD, DrPH(c), North Carolina Institute for Public Health, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Campus Box #8165, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-8165, (919) 843-5560,, Karl E. Umble, PhD, Center for Distance Learning, UNC-Chapel Hill School of Public Health, Campus Box 7400, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, Gina Johnson, BA, Dept. of Health Behavior and Health Education, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, CB 7440, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, and Claire Lorch, MSW, Public Health Leadership, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Campus Box 3343, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3343.

Healthcare workforce Spanish language and cultural competency are vital to better serve the Latino population. To meet this need we have created and pilot tested a CAI-based distance education (DE) intervention called A su salud! (“to your health”). The instructor-led program uses a health/drama on DVD, web, workbook, and phone support. Over 1-month, 29 health care students and current providers with intermediate Spanish skills started a DE pilot; 22 completed the program. Participants were pre-and post tested for vocabulary, grammar, oral comprehension and Spanish speaking skills, as well as a retrospective pre/post-test to assess self-perception of skills. Although language skills are generally not expected to improve over such a short time period, we found statistically significant improvements in skills in every category except oral comprehension.

Test time (possible score)

Oral Comprehension

Speaking ability (5.25)

Pre 32.9±11.8 19.5±7.4 7.1±3.4 5.9±2.9 3.4±1.1
Post 46.8±8.7* 25.4±4.1* 14.6±4.9* 6.9+1.6 3.8±1.0*

* indicates statistically significant changes in test scores

The retrospective pre/post test indicated that participants perceived their skills to significantly improve along 10 domains (topics include ability to: give directives in Spanish, speak in Spanish, understand Latino patients, interpret responses and elucidate critical information, identify when to call for an interpreter). From this brief pilot assessment we conclude that CAI- DE approaches such as A su salud! can provide effective strategies for improving Spanish language and cultural competency of health care providers. Our efforts continue to create an extensive 2-semester long DE program.

Learning Objectives:

At the conclusion of the session, the participant (learner) in this session will be able to:

  1. describe the potential use of distance education strategies to improve health care for the Latino population
  2. describe how computer assisted instruction can help healthcare providers' communication skills with Latino patients

Keywords: Distance Education, Latino Health

Related Web page:

Presenting author's disclosure statement: Organization/institution whose products or services will be discussed: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (program being developed and tested at this institution). I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

The 131st Annual Meeting (November 15-19, 2003) of APHA