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December 3, 2009
Relating Well at Drugstore Counters

Drug stores in New York State are about to provide prescription information at drug counters in Chinese, French, Italian, Russian, Polish, and Spanish in addition, of course, to English. The move reflects New York's polyglot ethnic setting, as well as pressure from state attorney general Andrew Cuomo.

For the past couple of years, Cuomo has been investigating complaints, including undercover observers at drug counters, that customers speaking foreign languages aren't getting advisable medication information on their prescription drugs. New York's foreign-born population has grown to over four million, or 21.3 % of its population in 2007.  Three in 10 residents of New York State, and about half the residents of New York City, speak a language other than English at home, The New York Times reports. 

Under an agreement with Cuomo announced last April, drug stores are equipping "their dispensaries with telephones that will connect customers with off-site interpreters working for language-service contractors. Some stores plan to provide dual handsets to allow pharmacists and customers to confer jointly with interpreters," The New York Times advised. 

The drug chains have been mindful of the need for broader language services, said a spokeswoman for Rite Aid. "We do believe it's important for people to get the right medication advice for their prescriptions."

Accomplishing that worthy aim effectively at busy drug counters will certainly be a challenge, however. There's no information yet on the initiative's cost. 

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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