Government Agency Websites that Earn an A in Serving Their Spanish Speaking Constituencies
Did you know that according to a study by the Instituto Cervantes, the United States is the second largest Spanish speaking country in the world? Only Mexico has more Spanish speakers.
The 2015 El Español: Una Lengua Viva report by the Instituto Cervantes, a Spanish government organization that promotes the use of Spanish Language worldwide, states that 41 million Spanish speaking people call the United States home, while another 11 million people are considered bilingual.
Of course, this remarkable growth brings challenges—especially when considering the mission of many U.S. government agencies and the need to provide easy-to-read, readily available, and culturally relevant information to their constituencies.
Several U.S. government agencies provide high quality content to the Hispanic community and have been doing so for some time. Both the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) do an excellent job providing the type of health and economic information that helps community members make educated decisions.
For instance, the HHS Federal Drug Administration’s Spanish website provides up-to-date information about new drug approvals and tips about how to store medicines safely at home.
Similarly, the HHS Office on Women’s Health offers information in Spanish for Latinas on health topics, including pregnancy, health checkups, and many other priority topics.
Another HHS agency that provides critical information online in Spanish is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a site where visitors can find facts about infections, diseases, disaster preparedness, and safety in the workplace.
FTC’s consumidor.gov offers easy-to-understand information on important financial issues, such as how to use money wisely, how to monitor credit reports and scores, and how to prevent identity theft and fraud.
Instead of searching for and accessing each of these sites individually, Spanish language speakers can simply go to GSA’s GobiernoUSA, a one-stop portal for Spanish-language resources provided by the U.S. government.
Providing resources and critical content on the Internet has a way of reaching not only primary target constituencies but reaching audiences world-wide. Case in point is MedlinePlus en español, the National Library of Medicine’s health consumer-oriented website that brings not only huge amounts of traffic from the United States, but also from the whole Spanish speaking world.
This particular U.S. government website provides a service trusted not only by U.S. citizens and residents, but also by people, families, organizations, and even universities in Latin America and Spain. The evidence is in the hundreds of retweets by people all over Latin America and Spain who are posting messages from MedlinePlus en español’s Twitter feed.
In early 2015, the National Library of Medicine selected Bixal to support its social media services, which include Spanish-language content gathering, editing, and creation, along with developing and implementing a social media strategy.
“Bixal is proud to support the National Library of Medicine, which is producing some of the highest quality health information in Spanish worldwide,” said Carla Briceno, Bixal’s vice president and cofounder. “We are passionate about using our skills and abilities in digital communications and technology to help inform and educate the Hispanic community in key topics essential to their well-being.”
The lessons learned from these Spanish language websites are positive and encouraging. But don’t be mistaken, the challenge is not only in providing Spanish language websites that mirror the English language websites, but creating dedicated, culturally appropriate websites that house unique information aimed at their Spanish speaking audiences, messages that these users find useful and trustworthy.
“At a minimum, government agencies should think about what’s most important to the Latino community and apply resources to help respond to informational needs using technology,” Carla Briceno added.
“When developing an informational resource for the Hispanic community, whether it be a website or a mobile application, government agencies should really think about the specific needs, interests, and characteristics of the key audiences they are trying to serve,” she said. “For example, access to high quality health information may be more important to groups who have less access to medical care. If you don’t pay attention to how the Hispanic community is unique, then your communication and outreach might be ineffective, and if we want to create a thriving, healthy Hispanic community that truly participates in the country’s overall growth, more agencies should be concerned with providing important information to this community.”
Over time, this could help save money of individuals and entities alike in healthcare-related costs.
This website and other well-constructed Spanish language websites can are models for other government agencies that aim to serve Spanish constituencies. In fact, because the Internet knows no boundaries, U.S. government websites have an impressive potential to reach not only Spanish speakers in the U.S., but Spanish-speaking audiences worldwide.
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