People with limited English proficiency (LEP) face a complicated and unfamiliar health care system, with additional barriers posed by language and cultural differences. In Chelsea, a large and evolving immigrant and refugee population adds further complexity to medical care, presenting challenges related to extreme poverty, trauma, and distrust in governmental systems. The Medical Interpreters and Community Health Workers help patients overcome these barriers and successfully navigate the health care system. Over time, the program also works to help the MGH Chelsea Healthcare Center build trusting relationships with its existing and potential patients to bridge the various cultural, language, and social barriers to accessing health care resources.

MI/CHW staff members are both trained medical interpreters (MIs) and community health workers (CHWs), which allows them to facilitate medically accurate communication between LEP patients and health care providers. They are strong patient advocates and hold the language and cultural perspective necessary to help patients navigate within the health center, hospital, and larger community. Staff provides on-site interpretation and community health services for patients who speak Spanish, Portuguese, Dari, Russian, Arabic, Serbo-Croatian, Bosnian, French, Somali, Nepali, Haitian Creole and May Maay. On-call interpreters are hired as needed for other languages, such as Albanian, Vietnamese, Korean, Tibetan, Tigrinya, Kunama, Amharic and American Sign Language.