Intended for healthcare professionals


Self reports in research with non-English speakers

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 14 August 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:352
  1. Sonja Hunt, honorary research fellow (,
  2. Raj Bhopal, Bruce and John Usher chair of public health (
  1. Division of Community Health Sciences, Public Health Sciences Section, University of Edinburgh Medical School, Edinburgh EH8 9AG.

    The challenge of language and culture is yet to be met

    Assessment of the health and healthcare needs of ethnic minority populations, often relying on self reported data, is important in health and social services.1 Major problems exist with the reliability of such information, particularly among recent and older immigrants and refugees who may have little or no competency in English and may be at high risk of health problems. Approximately 23% of immigrants to Britain born in China, Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan have no functional skill in English, and 70% cannot function fully in an English speaking social environment.2

    When a measure is probing differences within a group it must be appropriate, valid, and reliable for the group concerned. However, if the data are to be used to make comparisons between groups as in clinical trials and most epidemiological studies, then the questions must be conceptually and functionally equivalent and appropriate for all the groups compared. Non-English …

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