Hutch News

Breaking a language barrier

July 1, 2007
Suna Gurol, Katherine Briant and Sam Montenegro

Internet Service's Suna Gurol, left, oversaw the design and development of the award-winning Spanish-language version of the Center's Web site. The collaborative effort included Cancer Information Services' Katherine Briant and Sam Montenegro. The idea to publish the site came from Dr. Ed Davila, member of the Center's board of trustees and a leader in the local Latino community.

Photo by Lillian Furlong

The Hutchinson Center makes a wealth of valuable information available on its Web site. And the information is accessible from anywhere in the world.

But making information available and accessible is not enough if the goal is to share it as widely as possible. It must also be understandable — and not just to people who speak English.

Last year, the Center eliminated language as a barrier to health information for millions of people in the United States and around the world when it published a condensed version of its Web site in Spanish. The content emphasizes pertinent information about cancer research, treatment and prevention — including how to participate in clinical trials

"We consulted with principal investigators here and with the staff at Cancer Information Services to help identify what would be appropriate and relevant," said Laura Haroldson, senior manager of Internet Services.

Dr. Gloria Coronado, a principal investigator with the Public Health Sciences Division, works closely with local Hispanic communities to improve cancer screening and access to care. "It's a goal of all cancer centers to increase their outreach to diverse populations, especially when it comes to clinical trials," she said. "The Spanish language site sends a message that the Hutchinson Center is serious about reaching out."

Astrid Award winner

Suna Gurol was the Web producer overseeing the project for the Internet Services team that designed and built the Web site. Earlier this year, the site earned an Astrid Award for Excellence in Design from the International Academy of Communications Arts and Sciences/MerComm Inc.

The idea to publish a Spanish version of the Center's site came from Dr. Ed Davila, a member of the board of trustees. Davila credits Center Director Dr. Lee Hartwell and Board Chair Henry James with "encouraging me to begin a creative and genuine process of outreach to the Latino community similar to our established partnerships in Asia and in Africa."

Davila, a board-certified internist who practices in Burien, suggested launching a Spanish-language site shortly after joining the board in 2005. Six months later, the site was up and running. "What impressed me was the commitment to producing a quality product. The Center showed great respect to our Mexican counterparts in the project and demonstrated incredible teamwork."

A leader in the local Latino community, Davila is a former member of the governor's Commission on Hispanic Affairs and past president of Grupo Mexico of Washington State, an advocacy group. His knowledge and connections helped the Center gain key support for the Spanish-language Web site from the Mexican State Department and CONEVyT (National Education Consul of Life and Work).

First, interpreters at CONEVyT translated existing Web content from English to Spanish — which is not as simple it may sound. "We wanted to make sure the information is not just grammatically correct, but also culturally correct and that we used terms and idioms the population would use," Haroldson said.

Next, came the establishment of a direct link between the Spanish version of the Center site and CONEVyT, an online health and education portal serving not only Mexico but also Hispanic communities in the United States and throughout Latin America.

"CONEVyT and its mirror portal INEA (National Institute of Adult Education) records an astronomical 6 million to 11 million hits a month," said Davila, who hopes more and more of those hits lead to clicks on the Center link.

"The Hispanic population is underserved in terms of access to information about prevention and early detection," Davila said. "That's a serious problem because Hispanics in both the United States and throughout Latin America experience much higher rates of advanced-stage colon and cervical cancer."

Right now, the Spanish version of the Center's Web site averages about 200 hits every day. More hits come from Mexico — 31.5 percent — than any other country. Next are Peru (15.6 percent), Columbia (10.6 percent), Venezuela (8.3 percent), Spain (6.5 percent) and the United States (5.2 percent.)

"I'm almost certain that as the word spreads, especially in Mexico, our site is going to get thousands of hits a day," Davila said.

The site also is likely to open doors to additional partnerships with organizations such as Sea Mar Community Health Center, a community-based organization specializing in providing health and human services to Latinos throughout Washington. The Center currently is collaborating with Sea Mar on two projects, Coronado said.

One project involves improving access to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance for patients seen at Sea Mar Clinics. The other is a pilot study designed to improve screening rates for colorectal cancer. "I see a lot of potential for more such collaborations with Sea Mar and other organizations," Coronado said. "The Spanish-language Web site will make the Hutchinson Center more widely known."

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