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Health Literacy And Communication

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Discuss about the Health Literacy And Communication.


The term health literacy is defined as the degree to which a particular health individual has the capability to obtain information, process and thereby understand the different information related to health. It also helps the individual to understand the basic services which are needed to make development in the quality of health and hence make proper health decisions. Health literacy has been found to be guided by a large number of factors (Beatencourt et al., 2016). These are communication skills of the lay persons as well as the professionals. Moreover, the knowledge of the patients who arrive at the hospital as well as the knowledge possessed by the health care professional also affects the service delivery quality. Cultural backgrounds of the patients as well as the healthcare staffs influence the idea of different services as different cultures tend to make definite perceptions about a particular healthcare (Arnold & Boggs, 2015). Often demands of the situation as well as the demands of the healthcare and public health systems also tend to act as important factors in which health literacy is dependent on (Koh, Gracia & Alvarez, 2014). The essay will now focus on the importance that communication holds in relation to health literacy in culturally diverse environments. It will also show how strategies can be developed to promote health literacy with the help of effective communication in the healthcare settings.

Cultural competency is a very important attribute that every healthcare professional should possess as a part of their service delivery. Culture is a particular domain which has the ability to affect how people communicate, understand and thereby respond to different healthy information that is provided by the health care professionals (Purnell, 2014). The healthcare professional who has the feature of cultural as well as linguistic competency can contribute to health literacy. It is very important for the healthcare professional attending a culturally diverse patient to have an idea of cultural competence. With the help of this ability the healthcare professionals can recognize the cultural beliefs, values, traditions, language preferences as well as the attitudes and thereby can understand the health practices of the diverse population. Understanding the knowledge of the patient about his health is very important so that the healthcare practitioner can apply interventions according to their cultural preferences (Betancourt, Corbett & Bondayrk, 2014).


Communication is found to be effective tool that helps in developing health literacy in not only a patient of similar culture but also helps in developing literacy in culturally diverse patients. The healthcare professionals have their own culture and language that have been incorporate within them when they go through their education years and even join their profession. Therefore many of them adopt the culture of medicine and therefore they tend to develop a language specialty. This is mainly due to the result of their own training and work environment. Therefore it becomes a barrier for many of such healthcare professionals to get over their regular practice and communicate with patients in a simpler way (Jordan et al., 2013). This becomes more difficult for patients who are coming from a culturally diverse background. This is mainly because patients with different cultures have their own perception of healthcare that they want to get as a service. Moreover due to their language barrier, it sometimes becomes difficult for them to express their concerns and their needs. Moreover it also becomes much difficult for them to understand the different alternatives of healthcare treatment that the healthcare professional is suggesting them. These are two reasons. The first one may be a language barrier where the patient is not being able to grasp what the healthcare patient is suggesting them. The second reason is as they are from a different culture, their ways and perceptions of healthcare may differ from those practices by the healthcare organizations. Moreover being lay man, developing ideas concepts about various diseases, their treatments and often the services available for them are also not possible as their perceptions may vary and they may also not have proper knowledge (Tucker et al., 2015). They need to develop a communication skill which will help the patients to promote their health literacy but will also help them to express their concerns. The communicative skills will be exhibited in a way which will maintain the autonomy and dignity of the patients besides respecting the culture of the patients paying importance to their diversity (Beauchamp et al., 2015).


Communication is found to be an integral part not only in making appointments for this visit for advice  to the healthcare sectors but also in every important aspects like developing the knowledge about the disorder that had occurred in the patient. It also helps the patient to understand  the risks and benefits that the patients may face from the service  and then  understand the care instructions (Attard et al., 2015). In short, communication is a skill required for developing health literacy in patients. However the entire procedure becomes difficult for a patient of culturally different background as their ways of perception of health care may vary; the services may not be according to their customs and traditions or may be due to simple language behaviour. Hence it is the entire responsibility of the nurse or the healthcare professional to develop communication skills that will help in developing the health literacy among the culturally diverse patients (Chiu et al., 2016).

Researchers have therefore come to a conclusion that it is extremely important for the healthcare professionals to use a number of patient centered strategies. These will help the culturally diverse population who may fail to receive or may not understand oral as well as written health information  in English which has used difficult complex medical jargon. This is because culturally diverse background people may not have knowledge in English with improper ideas about different diseases (Gordon et al., 2014).  A negative aspect that may arise in similar situation is that healthcare disparities may arise when miscommunications take place and this affects certain patient population deeply. Therefore it becomes extremely important for both the healthcare professionals as when the healthcare organizations to address the disparities. This would be done so that not only the patient of different cultural background has the scope of enhancing their health literacy developments but also feel respected and accepted within the healthcare organization (Huff, Kline & Peterson, 2014).

The first strategy that is important for the healthcare professionals to include in their practice is gathering of important information about the patient’s culture, their preferences, and their perceptions towards healthcare, their needs and others. This can be achieved in two important ways. The first way is to engage the patient into a compassionate interaction session, where the patient will be able to able to express her feelings and needs (Truong, Paradies & Priest, 2014). These professionals should engage into a compassionate task only after the professional would be gathering enough information about their culture from external sources like internet, colleagues of similar backgrounds and others and prepare his communicative skills. Then the professional would engage into a talk where his main aim would be to develop the health literacy of the patent in a way which would respect their ethnicity and culture. He would also ensure that this talk also helps them to understand the importance of changes in perceptions.



Just by providing the information to the patient, the healthcare professional can never be sure that the patient had developed health literacy about the issue that is discussed. Another important stage of effective communication is to ensure that the listener is able to process the information that is provided to her. This can be only understood by proper evaluation methods which should be taken by the professional Researchers say that there are reports where patients often admit that they have agreed coming under pressure and such a statement from patent may engage the staff in ethical and legal complications. Therefore the healthcare professional should ensure that the patient never agrees under pressure (Doornbros, Zandie & DeGroot, 2014). The healthcare professional should also evaluate that whether the patients may ot properly understanding the information and processing them sequentially. Many patients even fail to understand themselves whether they have properly understood the information provided by the staffs. Others may acknowledge that they have limitations but try very hard to avoid embarrassment. Even there are many patients who do not enquire even if the information are not clear to them for they believe that their culture would be disrespected by the professional thinking them to be inefficient. Nurses, with the help of their holistic approach should try to develop a bond with the patients with different backgrounds so that they release their complexities and enquire about their issues. Moreover a patient’s activity like issues in filling an English form, reading a printed material, unable to process information and others should be noted. Therefore while providing information, the professional should use simple terms which are familiar with the patients belonging to separate culture. The staff should incorporate changes in his communication technique accprding to the patients’ culture. The professional should arrange the information in user friendly simple manner by organizing them into units which would be headed by titles. It is extremely important for the staff to develop knowledge about different meanings of particular words which are held by different cultures in different ways. Therefore it is the duty of the professionals to look over it and take necessary steps.


Another strategy that the healthcare professional may use to overcome the barrier and ensure development of health literacy in the individual is the teach back method. Here the patient would be asked to repeat what he had understood. This would help the professional to understand how efficiently he had explained the topic and how much the patent had been able to grasp them. The teach-back is a very good evaluative method and would help the professional in developing proper health literacy among the patients of different backgrounds (Chiu et al., 2016).

Therefore, one can easily understand how important is the relationship of effective communication of healthcare professionals with that of the patients of culturally diverse background. It has been seen that developing health literacy is extensively important for patients to understand the disorders that they are experiencing, the risks associated with them, the benefits that they will have from proper treatment and the associated information. However, not all the patients are able to understand the different heath realted information due to gaps in knowledge or due to differences in cultural traditions. As a result, often ethical and legal complications arise. Therefore the healthcare professionals should be responsible enough to develop strategies through effective communication method which would help them to promote health literacy in the patients of diverse cultural backgrounds and thereby provide the best service to mankind.



Arnold, E. C., & Boggs, K. U. (2015). Interpersonal relationships: Professional communication skills for nurses. Elsevier Health Sciences.

Attard, M., McArthur, A., Riitano, D., Aromataris, E., Bollen, C., & Pearson, A. (2015). Improving communication between health-care professionals and patients with limited English proficiency in the general practice setting. Australian journal of primary health, 21(1), 96-101.

Beauchamp, A., Buchbinder, R., Dodson, S., Batterham, R. W., Elsworth, G. R., McPhee, C., ... & Osborne, R. H. (2015). Distribution of health literacy strengths and weaknesses across socio-demographic groups: a cross-sectional survey using the Health Literacy Questionnaire (HLQ). BMC public health, 15(1), 678.

Betancourt, J. R., Corbett, J., & Bondaryk, M. R. (2014). Addressing disparities and achieving equity: cultural competence, ethics, and health-care transformation. CHEST Journal, 145(1), 143-148.

Betancourt, J. R., Green, A. R., Carrillo, J. E., & Owusu Ananeh-Firempong, I. I. (2016). Defining cultural competence: a practical framework for addressing racial/ethnic disparities in health and health care. Public health reports.

Chiu, C., Feuz, M. A., McMahan, R. D., Miao, Y., & Sudore, R. L. (2016). “Doctor, make my decisions”: decision control preferences, advance care planning, and satisfaction with communication among diverse older adults. Journal of pain and symptom management, 51(1), 33-40.

Doornbos, M. M., Zandee, G. L., & DeGroot, J. (2014). Attending to Communication and Patterns of Interaction Culturally Sensitive Mental Health Care for Groups of Urban, Ethnically Diverse, Impoverished, and Underserved Women. Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, 20(4), 239-249.

Gordon, R. M., Corcoran, J. R., Bartley-Daniele, P., Sklenar, D., Sutton, P. R., & Cartwright, F. (2014). A transdisciplinary team approach to pain management in inpatient health care settings. Pain Management Nursing, 15(1), 426-435.

Huff, R. M., Kline, M. V., & Peterson, D. V. (Eds.). (2014). Health promotion in multicultural populations: A handbook for practitioners and students. SAGE publications.

Jordan, J. E., Buchbinder, R., Briggs, A. M., Elsworth, G. R., Busija, L., Batterham, R., & Osborne, R. H. (2013). The Health Literacy Management Scale (HeLMS): A measure of an individual's capacity to seek, understand and use health information within the healthcare setting. Patient education and counseling, 91(2), 228-235.

Koh, H. K., Gracia, J. N., & Alvarez, M. E. (2014). Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services--advancing health with CLAS. The New England journal of medicine, 371(3), 198.

Purnell, L. D. (2014). Guide to culturally competent health care. FA Davis.

Truong, M., Paradies, Y., & Priest, N. (2014). Interventions to improve cultural competency in healthcare: a systematic review of reviews. BMC health services research, 14(1), 99.

Tucker, C. M., Arthur, T. M., Roncoroni, J., Wall, W., & Sanchez, J. (2015). Patient-centered, culturally sensitive health care. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 9(1), 63-77.


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