With the aim of helping healthcare professionals and students communicate with Hispanic patients, North Carolina State University on Thursday announced the ProSalud (ProHealth) project.

The initiative is based on the premise that communication between doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals and their patients is essential and that language and cultural barriers prevent many people in the United States from communicating with their medical care providers.

"The aim of improving and serving the community is there," Ana Gray, a Spanish instructor at NC State and one of the initiative's three coordinators, told Efe on Thursday.

"What we (need) is to integrate ourselves, the hospitals, the universities and the rest of those involved in the sector, since we're working separately. Our desire is to provide support and that very necessary connection," she said.

Three-quarters of the 52 million Hispanics in the United States speak Spanish in the home.

"Knowing the medical terms in Spanish and understanding the cultural aspect is very necessary," Cheryl Block, also a Spanish instructor at NC State, told Efe.

"El Mundo Hispano y la Salud" (The Spanish World and Health), a bilingual book written by Block, Gray, and Patricia Willoughby, includes not only a review of Spanish grammar and health sector vocabulary, but also offers a view of cultural differences.

Gray illustrates the situation with the example that in the majority of Spanish-speaking countries there exists the tradition of accompanying a member of the family when he or she is sick or goes to the doctor, and it is also very common that several people come along.

"Ten people will show up when someone goes to the emergency room. A lot of American doctors and nurses don't know what's going on," she said.

"We wrote the book because we couldn't find a text that addressed these issues for intermediate Spanish speakers," Block said. EFE