Health Literacy and Culturally Competent Care

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Presentation. Training on the importance of effective communication will be delivered through power point. At any point in the session, participants would be encouraged to ask questions or seek clarification. Importantly, to enhance understanding, infographics will be used.

            The presentation will start by looking at the importance of nurses being culturally competent when dealing with patients. Along those lines, the presentation will introduce the concept of health literacy and why it is crucial in efforts to provide patient-centered care. Consequently, the role of effective communication in improving patient care outcomes will be discussed.

            Culturally competent care underscore the care process that considers the values, and beliefs of the patient. For instance, when giving care to a Muslim, a clinician should consider the influence of the Islamic faith and their beliefs about care. For instance, it may be culturally inappropriate for a care provider of opposite sex to maintain eye contact with the patient. Equally, the patient may feel offended if much of their body is exposed preferring instead to remain covered during the care process. The process of care greatly affect the satisfaction levels of the patient. For instance, if they feel that the care process did not take their inputs, they may be dissatisfied with the outcomes. The question then is, how do care providers give care that is culturally competent? An essential part of the answer is effective communication and improving the health literacy of the patient. In other words, the care provider must clearly communicate with the patient. In case of language differences, services of a translator should be engaged.

            Health literacy relates to the capacity of the patients to receive and process health information for decision making (Vass, Mitchell & Dhurrkay, 2011). A model proposed by Zarcadoolas best illustrates the various aspects of health literacy. The key health literacy domains proposed by of a model are fundamental, community, scientific, cultural and community (Vass, Mitchell & Dhurrkay, 2011). Fundamental implies the basic skills of literacy, such as being able to read and understand basic arithmetic symbols. If a person cannot read or understand mathematics symbol, pictorial representation of health information can be used, though these may not contribute to the overall empowerment of the patient (Vass, Mitchell & Dhurrkay, 2011). Another domain in the model is the scientific literacy. Essentially, this implies the ability of the patient to understand basic biomedical concepts and health technology. For instance, does the patient understand about respiratory, circulation and digestion systems? In addition, does the patient have a basic conceptualization of the process of diagnosis and treatment or methods of prevention? The model also considers community literacy, which refers to the ability of the people to analyze a source of information to debate or dialogue to help make decisions. The last domain is cultural literacy and refers to the ability of the community to apply cultural customs, values, social identity and world-views in interpreting and applying health information (Vass, Mitchell & Dhurrkay, 2011).  

            Health literacy can have a positive impact on the health of the patients. For instance, informed decisions help patients reduce health risks which in turn increases the overall quality of life. At the heart of health literacy, is the idea of making the patient understand the care process. The patient receives health information and processes it to make informed decisions. Therefore, health literacy is also about the empowerment of the patient. Helping them to understand the care process so that they can also participate in decision-making process. For instance, with health literacy, a patient can comfortably compare and choose health plans. Such plans may include financial considerations such as copays, a prescription for premium drugs and deductibles. Therefore, the patient selects the model that meets their needs and those of the family.

            Low health literacy will likely lead to low levels of health outcomes for the patient. Notably, these poor health outcomes may increase the overall cost of care. Moreover, a patient may fail to effectively use preventive services, which would be effective in reducing diseases. In addition, persons with low health literacy skills lead to the patients poorly managing their health and may cause higher incidences of re-hospitalization (Berkman et al., 2011). It is quite clear that health literacy is crucial in improving the patient care outcomes. Notably, the problem of health illiteracy is particularly exemplified in areas that are culturally and linguistically diverse (Vass, Mitchell & Dhurrkay, 2011).

            Essentially, health literacy will create an interactive atmosphere through which the patient and physician can deliberate on the health issues. The patient is not just passively taking information from the care provider but also providing feedback that can help the provider in giving patient-centered care. If patients diverse patients are increasingly empowered, through health literacy programs, inequalities to access to care can be reduced. In other words, people can process and understand actions meant to improve their health. Consequently, the quality of life will improve, as people are more aware of health approaches and can thus reduce risks of diseases. For instance, if people become health literate, they will become increasingly aware of the dangers posed by behaviors such as unhealthy diet (too much sodium, fat, and sugars in foods), smoking, lack of exercise among others. Essentially, by improving the levels of health literacy the health and wellness of a community can be increased.

            Effective communication is essential in providing patient-centered care. This approach to care pay due to regard to the needs and wants of the patient. In addition, patient-centered care also integrates the perspectives of the patient in the care process. The result is a greater engagement of the patient in the care process (Koay, Schofield & Jefford, 2012). In addition, the process enhances partnership and greater understanding of the doctor-patient relationship. The traditional way of training healthcare providers on health communication focuses on breaking the bad news, eliciting concerns and responses among others (Butow & Baile, 2012). These principles remain relevant to the health communication, which focuses on the exchange of the information between the physician and the patient. However, with new medical challenges, the traditional approach of communication is becoming unreliable. For instance, in the oncology unit, the biggest challenge for the healthcare workers is in discussing with patients about high-cost drugs, treatment failure and care transitions (curative to palliative) (Butow & Baile, 2012).  The challenge in communication is exacerbated by cultural barriers, which make it harder for patient and healthcare provider to exchange information.

            Communication is an essential part of the health literacy. Companies market their products so that consumers understand the benefits and with that knowledge make purchases. The message is effective and tailored to meet the needs of a specific target audience. Equally, patients have to be considered consumers of health. Consequently, the provider must communicate to them in a way that makes the patient understand the process of care and the risks. Using that information and knowledge, the patient can choose the type and process of care that he or she desires. Importantly, this effective communication creates a relationship between the patient and the health provider, which encourages trust and confidence. In this case, the healthcare provider is not just passing information to the client but also receiving ideas through feedbacks that help improve the approach to care and the outcomes.

            It is also important to note that effective communication is also related to the cultural competence. For instance, the ability of a health provider to be able to identify cultural cues and respond in a way that respects the customs and values of the patient. In turn, for this communication to be effective, the patient needs to be health literate. In other words, they should be able to receive, understand and process health information being given by the provider. The patient will perceive the care provider as respectful, which will help improve satisfaction with the care process and health outcomes.

            Making effective communication will require that staff apply both verbal and non-verbal skills in engaging with the patients (Baur, 2010). Importantly, the information must be within the levels of understanding of the patient. In other words, care providers must ensure that explanations are simple and well understood by the patient. Importantly, the feedback of the patient should be sought by eliciting appropriate responses. Importantly, in all health communication, respect to cultural beliefs and values should be accorded to prevent offending the patient. When healthcare providers cannot communicate in the language that the patient can understand, the health outcomes are affected (Mogobe et al., 2016). Therefore, this also calls for the provider to invest in cultural diversity training and capacity building. At an organizational level, workshops and seminars can be organized through which staff learns about cultural diversity and its application in the care delivery system. In addition, senior physicians can set communication goals for learners before being allowed to see a patient (Butow & Baile, 2012). Health literacy and communication are connected because of the level of health literacy influences effectiveness of communication and vice versa (Lowell et al., 2014). 

            In summary, health literacy and effective communication are crucial to improving the patient health outcomes. Importantly, both effective communication and health literacy can help in reducing care disparities and helping the patient to navigate through the care system. Importantly, the patient is empowered in making informed decisions that reflect on his or her health needs.


Lowell, A., Schmitt, D., Ah Chin, W., & Connors, C. (2014). Provider Health Literacy, cultural and communication competence: towards an integrated approach in the Northern Territory.

Butow, P., & Baile, W. F. (2012). Communication in cancer care: a cultural perspective. In Clinical Psycho-oncology: an international perspective (pp. 11-20). John Wiley & Sons.

Vass, A., Mitchell, A., & Dhurrkay, Y. (2011). Health literacy and Australian Indigenous peoples: an analysis of the role of language and worldview. Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 22(1), 33-37.

Mogobe, K. D., Shaibu, S., Matshediso, E., Sabone, M., Ntsayagae, E., Nicholas, P. K., ... & Webel, A. (2016). Language and culture in health literacy for people living with HIV: perspectives of health care providers and professional care team members. AIDS research and treatment, 2016.

Baur, C. (2010). The national action plan to improve health literacy. US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

Koay, K., Schofield, P., & Jefford, M. (2012). Importance of health literacy in oncology. Asia‐Pacific Journal of Clinical Oncology, 8(1), 14-23.

Berkman, N. D., Sheridan, S. L., Donahue, K. E., Halpern, D. J., & Crotty, K. (2011). Low health literacy and health outcomes: an updated systematic review. Annals of internal medicine, 155(2), 97-107.

October 13, 2023

Health Life

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