Doctor-Patient Communications are Key to Improving Health Literacy

Effective healthcare communication policies and practices, including provider health proficiency, contribute to improving the quality of services for culturally and linguistically diverse people as well as parties with limited health literacy skills.

Health literacyHealthcare communication is a synergy of three influences: medical proficiency, cultural competency, and linguistic competency. These three points interplay with one another in dynamic natures. A  person’s health literacy may be affected by socio-cultural factors including education, income, country of origin,  and stage of assimilation to their new culture, to mention a few.  Cultural factors not only include lingo, gender, socio-economic status, sex orientation, and gender issues but likewise physical and mental capacity, age, religion, and regional differences. Culture also includes diversity within specific ethnic groups. All key factors are very dynamic and interdependent. They are difficult to separate and they tend to interact and affect one another. 

The U.S. has become increasingly linguistically and culturally diverse. The number of people who speak a language other than English at home has more than doubled in the past three decades and is growing at a pace four times greater than the nation’s population growth.In this time frame percentages non-English speakers grew by one hundred and forty percent while the nation’s overall population was increased by thirty-four percent. The rise in our nation’s non-English speakers calls for rapid and inventive responses on the part of health care systems to ensure that competent translators are available when required.

Health equity is the attainment of the highest level of health for all beings.

The National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities has prepared a helpful toolkit for action in addressing health literacy.

You can download the toolkit here.