Toolkit to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Healthcare


In 1995, Kaiser Permanente performed a national environmental scan of existing interpreter programs that found:

  • No private or public accreditation program existed for professional health care interpretation; and
  • Interpreters provided by external agencies often lacked sufficient training and demonstrated an inconsistent quality in their interpretation.

In addition, there were no existing interpretation accreditation or performance standards. Recognizing the lack of formally trained Health Care Interpreters, related training programs and certification standards, Kaiser Permanente in 1996 designed a model Health Care Interpretation curriculum. In 2000, Kaiser formed a collaboration with the City College of San Francisco (CCSF) to offer the curriculum as a formal 15 credit unit Health Care Interpreter Certificate Program (HCICP), making CCSF the first educational institution in the Western United States to offer Health Care Interpreter training at the college level.

Initiative Description

The innovative partnership between Kaiser Permanente and CCSF provides a cost-effective and practical solution to training health care interpreters. The goal of the HCICP grassroots curriculum is to develop the cultural and linguistic competency of Health Care Interpreter students and prepare them to work effectively and efficiently in health care settings. Through academic preparation, practical skills training, guest lectures by Kaiser Permanente and non-Kaiser Permanente clinicians and field experience in various Kaiser Permanente and non-Kaiser Permanente facilities, HCICP students gain additional hands-on experience and real-time practical skills and knowledge to successfully complete their training program.

Success of the HCIP project requires five key resources:

  • Personnel:
  • Financial
  • Training
  • Support
  • Technology


Since developing the HCICP, Kaiser Permanente has:

  • Established six internship programs at Kaiser Permanente facilities and hospitals.
  • Partnered with , a project of RWJF, to establish 10 additional program sites throughout the country.
  • Trained and certified more than 100 college-level instructors and staff at Kaiser Permanente’s HCI Instructor Institute.
  • Graduated more than 900 students from HCICP at partnering colleges with a 90 percent successful completion rate.
  • Enhanced HCICP students’ marketability and readiness for employment in health care while building community capacity to serve limited English populations. Languages spoken by graduates include Arabic, Cantonese, Farsi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Laotian, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese.
  • Increased internal Kaiser Permanente workforce capacity by improving health care interpretation skills among employed staff.

Based on a Kaiser Permanente-funded research study, providers who used trained health care interpreters overwhelmingly preferred them to untrained health care interpreters (family members and bilingual staff). The same study found that members were able to differentiate between trained and untrained health care interpreters and favor trained health care interpreters significantly. In addition, the HCICP graduates fulfill cultural and linguistic health service needs, contribute to Kaiser Permanente’s overarching mission to reduce health disparities and aid in compliance with federal and state mandates such as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


The success of the HCICP throughout the years and its ongoing expansion to 15 additional geographic areas have shown that partnerships between health care organizations and accredited academic institutions are sustainable and mutually beneficial. Collaborative efforts meet a mutual need by joining the health institutions in need of professional health care interpreters and the academic institutions that train them. Kaiser Permanente encourages and implements ongoing HCICP partnerships outside its service area. The HCICP is a national model with regional and local applicability. It is easily transferable to other health care and academic organizations committed to implementing this partnership training program model.