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What is intercultural mediation?

Intercultural mediation is a set of activities to minimise the effects of language barriers, socio-cultural differences and tensions between ethnic groups within healthcare settings. The goal is to offer equal access and quality of care for all patients regardless of their migrant background. Intercultural mediators act as interpreters, clarify misunderstandings, offer explanations of cultural differences and assist both care providers and patients during the care process. In exceptional cases, such as in cases of racism or discrimination, they act as patient advocates. Currently, 113 intercultural mediators are active.

On-site intercultural mediation takes place in 40 general and 8 psychiatric hospitals, as well as in a network of 28 community health centres. 

Intercultural mediation via videoconferencing

In addition to on-site intercultural mediation, an offering of intercultural mediation via videoconference was created. This uses an app developed for this purpose and care providers can use the app to reserve a mediator for an intervention via video. Twelve languages are continuously available, including Turkish, Russian and several variants of Arabic. Recently, Ukrainian and languages from Afghanistan (Dari, Pashto, Urdu) were made available. Healthcare providers can also request interventions in less commonly requested languages such as Italian and Bosnian-Serbian-Croatian.

Assistance providers are increasingly using intercultural mediation via video. Currently, more than 250 healthcare facilities use this service. The total number of interventions via video more than doubled from 8,178 to 17,511 from 2020 to 2022.

Evolution in number of video conferences for intercultural mediation

The majority of these videoconferences, around 56%, take place in hospitals. The offer of intercultural mediation via videoconference is now available to general and psychiatric hospitals, general practices, community health centres, medical services of reception structures for asylum seekers and front-line psychologists. 

Number of interventions per type of institution

Intercultural mediation in the mental health sector

Intercultural mediation is also used in mental health services, although it is still relatively limited. In 2022, 327 video interventions were conducted in 8 psychiatric facilities. Mental healthcare providers stress that intercultural mediation makes it possible to provide better care to people who were previously hard to reach. Taking into account the higher incidence of mental health problems among people of migrant background, this is an important development. This is all the more true since, as a result of a series of geopolitical crises (Syria, Afghanistan, Ukraine), we have experienced and are experiencing a significant influx of potentially traumatised asylum seekers.

More information Guide for Intercultural Mediation in Health Care

More information What are the roles of intercultural mediators in health care?