Civic Discourse, Public Health, and Language Access—how Colorado Government Agencies Made Information Available to People with Limited English Proficiency

Civic Discourse, Public Health, and Language Access—how Colorado Government Agencies Made Information Available to People with Limited English Proficiency

By Steve Chu, Treehouse Strategy

March 31, 2020

DENVER, COLORADO — The current coronavirus pandemic has created an insatiable appetite for accurate, relevant information. Most people obtain information through a combination of official channels (Center for Disease Control, local health departments), media outlets, and social media. For people with limited English proficiency (LEP), they have to rely on media and social media more so than the English-speaking population. In Colorado, Hispanic or Latino represents 21.7% and Asians represent 3.5% of the Colorado state population. The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) has made critical information available in Spanish, Somali, Simplified Chinese, and Vietnamese.

Most of the documents related to the COVID-19 outbreak, including, for example, COVID-19 factsheets and information about community spread have been translated into Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Somali, and Vietnamese. As the crisis deepens, CDPHE is looking to expand its language access to additional languages.

Cesco Linguistic Services, a Denver-based language company, is one of several companies behind translating this critical information that enables the limited English proficiency (LEP) population in Colorado to access official information.

Information about the coronavirus outbreak is also made available in Spanish at the county level, as well. For example, the Tri-County Health Department, which comprises Douglas, Adams and Arapahoe Counties in Colorado, hosted a COVID-19 virtual townhall on March 11, 2020 to share information and answer the public’s questions about the state of the outbreak and the counties’ response. The townhall was interpreted in Spanish and American sign Language (ASL). Cesco Linguistic Services provided the interpreters for both, which enabled the Spanish-speaking and deaf population in those three counties to participate in this important public forum.

According to Steve Lank, Vice President of Translation Services at Cesco, “I am very impressed by the efforts the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment and our schools are making to communicate with all of their constituents—regardless of language—to ensure they have reliable information to act upon as this crisis unfolds. I am proud that Cesco is in the position to help and even prouder of our dedicated translation teams, who have worked tirelessly to make sure this important information gets out with delay.”

Cesco Linguistic Services is also in overdrive mode to work with a number of school districts in Colorado to keep their families informed about the outbreak in their areas and pointing families to sources of reliable informaton including mental wellness and psychological support services. With the help of language companies such as Cesco, these Colorado school districts are translating documents into multiple languages—in many cases ten or more.

As more cases of community spread surface, raising community awareness is obviously a critical component of prevention and intervention. Providing translation and interpretation of critical public health information is a facet of public service.

Steve Chu is the President of Treehouse Strategy—a management consulting company specializing in the language industry. Treehouse advises language companies on growth strategies, marketing, operations, and technology. Treehouse provides actionable insights and intelligence to its global language industry clientele. Steve Chu is the founder and Executive Director of the Glocalization Organization of Asia Pacific (GoAP).

This is a developing story. If you have a story to share about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, please contact Steve at

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