Understanding Spanish-Language Response in a National Health Communication Survey: Implications for Health Communication Research

A. Susana Ramírez, Gordon Willis, Lila Finney Rutten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Spanish-speaking Latinos account for 13% of the U.S. population yet are chronically under-represented in national surveys; additionally, the response quality suffers from low literacy rates and translation challenges. These are the same issues that health communicators face when understanding how best to communicate important health information to Latinos. The Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) offers a unique opportunity to understand the health communication landscape and information needs of the U.S. population. We describe the challenges in recruiting Spanish-speaking HINTS respondents and strategies used to improve rates and quality of responses among Spanish-speaking Latinos. Cognitive interviewing techniques helped to better understand how Spanish-speaking Latinos were interpreting the survey questions, and the extent to which these interpretations matched English-speaking respondents’ interpretations. Some Spanish-speaking respondents had difficulty with the questions because of a lack of access to health care. Additionally, Spanish-speaking respondents had a particularly hard time answering questions that were presented in a grid format. We describe the cognitive interview process, and consider the impact of format changes on Spanish-speaking people’s responses and response quality. We discuss challenges that remain in understanding health information needs of non-English-speakers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)442-450
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of health communication
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 4 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Library and Information Sciences


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