Head shot of Professor Cindy Brantmeier

Cindy Brantmeier and team wins grant to study language barriers in obstetric and gynecological care with female immigrants and refugees in New York City

Maintaining effective interpersonal patient-provider communication in the obstetric setting, and particularly the birthing process, is critical. Communication errors have been identified as the main cause in 72% of all perinatal deaths worldwide. A team co led by a researcher from the College of Arts and Sciences, Cindy Brantmeier, and physicians at Maiominides Medical Center, Brooklyn, New York, were awarded a one-year renewable $24,730 grant to examine patient-provider communication with female immigrants and refugees in an obstetric and gynecological context. Co PIs for the study are Cindy Brantmeier, Dr. Thammatat (Juwee) Vorawandthanachai, MD, Resident Physician, and Dr. Janet Stein, MD, MS, Director of Obstetrics, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Maimonides Medical Center, Brooklyn, New York.

The study brings together experts from medicine and applied linguistics to examine the language abilities, preparation, and communication skills of both healthcare workers and linguistically diverse patients, while also emphasizing the impact of interpreter use with women during the birthing process, including labor. By tailoring a self-assessment tool, previously developed for a St. Louis study that intersects Applied Linguistics and Public Health, the research will provide necessary data to pinpoint where the communication breakdown might occur when language diverse patients interface with healthcare workers in this setting.

The patient population at Maimonides speaks approximately 77 languages. Findings from the study will help attend to immediate needs at both the healthcare worker and patient levels with corresponding interventions and trainings that address specific communication factors, such as an expectant mother’s understanding of the provider’s recommendations that may conflict with cultural acceptability of methods.