Staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic depends on following the correct advice. Information and fact sheets are widely available from the authorities, but not everyone can read them. Although English is the official language in the US, not everyone living here speaks or reads it properly. This is why a team of students and physicians at Harvard University School have started an ambitious project: translating COVID-19 fact sheets in several languages.
COVID-19 Health Literacy Project: Saving Lives by Translation
The ad-hoc task force launched the project website where anyone can download accurate fact sheets about COVID-19 in 30 languages. The fact sheets cover various topics of interest, such as:
- Helping preschoolers, children and teenagers understand what COVID-19 is;
- Safety measures to prevent getting infected;
- Explaining pregnant women how they may be affected by the virus;
- How to act when people suspect they are infected or suffer the symptoms of COVID-19.
The idea to start this project came when medical students and physicians at Harvard University School noticed that non-English speakers did not have even basic information about safety and prevention. The resources available to them before this project were limited, with little and incomplete information.
Information Available in Less Known Languages
The Covid-19 Health Literacy Project aims to cover some of the lesser known languages spoken across America, such as Urdu, Swahili or Tamil. The fact sheets are also available in the languages of First Nations, such as Navajo.
Currently, the project covers 35 languages. Out of these, 28 languages already have the fact sheets ready for download and the rest are work in progress. The project team encourages anyone who can help translate these fact sheets in other languages to join their efforts.
Authorities Step In to Provide Information to Non-English Speakers
In parallel with the efforts of the Harvard University School team, various public authorities are also working on making COVID-19 information available to everyone, including non-English speakers.
Thus, the Center for Disease Control translated basic information about the virus in Chinese and Spanish. The Department of Health of Washington State published Coronavirus related information in 15 languages. And the government of New Hampshire added a video in American Sign Language on its website and written information in eight languages.