Good communication is very important in healthcare. Patients must be able to describe their symptoms and answer the healthcare professional’s questions with clarity and without ambiguity. They must also be able to understand the instructions received for follow-up, use of medication, referrals, etc. Many people find that when they are stressed or ill, they tend to revert to their native tongue. While being able to use one’s language is reassuring and ensures proper communication, the reality for many Anglophones in Quebec is that health and social services in English are not always available when they need them.

The Health Passport is a document that facilitates communication between English-speaking patients and French-speaking health professionals. It was inspired by a document initially created by the Mégantic Community Development Corporation (MCDC) in Thetford Mines and has been adapted for the Lanaudière region by the English Community Organization of Lanaudière (ECOL). On the cover appears a message in French that can be shown to the reception personnel to relate that its bearer is in need of assistance and does not speak French.

The Health Passport contains the medical history of the bearer which should be completed in French by a health care professional, current medication being taken, a list of things to do in order to be prepared for a visit to the doctor, and a lexicon organized in sequential order to explain symptoms. There is a description of different pains and symptoms. The passport is chronologically arranged to reflect the question sequence from a health care professional in order to avoid waste of time and to decrease stress-induced communication problems.

The bearer can speak in English as he/she reads the English portion on the left side of the page and points towards the French translation on the right side for the healthcare worker to read in French. The reading process can also be easily reversed and used by a French-speaking person to obtain information from the Anglophone.

This booklet is useful during routine exams, clinical visits and emergency situations, such as communicating with a Francophone ambulance attendant or triage nurse. It is also useful if the bearer is unconscious because it also contains who to reach in case of an emergency and the complete medical history of the bearer including allergies and recent blood pressure readings. There is also a space to inscribe contact numbers in case of an emergency situation.

To obtain free copies of the Health Passport for yourself and your family members, contact The English Community Organization of Lanaudière (ECOL) by leaving a message with your name and telephone number at (450) 834-3070 extension 1080 or (450) 882-2123 extension 3045; or by email at ecollanaudiere@hotmail.com.

If you prefer new technologies over old-school paper copies, the Community Health and Social Service Network (CHSSN) has also developed an electronic version of the Health Passport. You can download the application at http://health-passport.ca/.

Source: Michelle Eaton-Lusignan, Executive Director
English Community Organization of Lanaudière
450-421-5379 / ecollanaudiere@hotmail.com