Health Literacy

Health Literacy and Effective Communication in Culturally Diverse Environments


Health literacy, according to Manganello, Gerstner, Pergolino, Graham, Falisi and Strogatz (2016), refers to the extent of which people, mostly patients, can access, quickly go through and comprehend basic services and information related to health matters. After all this is done, they are in a position to make desirable and correct health decisions. It is worth noting that health literacy mainly depends on systemic and individual aspects. For instance, the communication skills of the professionals undertaking the information program affect the success of health literacy.

Some of the factors that affect health literacy include the demands of both the healthcare systems and the context at hand. However, one such factor that affects health literacy immensely is culture, hence the need to ensure the success of the program in a culturally diverse environment (Batterham, Hawkins, Collins, Buchbinder & Osborne, 2016). It is because culture affects the way individuals absorb certain matters related to health. The language used by the health practitioners also affects the health literacy of people. For instance, if they use a language that people do not comprehend, the carder fail to get a glimpse of the whole procedure. The same applies to individuals with low levels of education and areas with Low English Proficiency. The article, therefore, aims at establishing the importance and relationship of health literacy to effective communication in a surrounding with diverse cultures (Batterham et al., 2016).



Importance and relationship of health literacy to effective communication in a culturally diverse healthcare

Health literacy is vital to effective communication in a couple of ways. First, it is responsible for the acquisition of the necessary health information among individuals. In cases where the public lacks such knowledge, health outcomes are poor, mostly characterized with a higher rate of admission to hospitals and general hospitalization (Manganello et al., 2016). Additionally, it results in less application of preventive measures to illnesses. Moreover, health literacy is responsible for the full control of health matters by individuals. To flesh out on this, the public is in a position to take charge of their health in the manner in which they tackle their illnesses and further take preventive measures. In the case of medication, health literacy helps in the overall dosage prescribed by medical officers. Most people who are health literate are in a better position to understand the prescriptions noted (Manganello et al., 2016).

Besides, health literacy is responsible for the positive response of individuals towards healthcare plans, insurance, for example. Therefore, the living standards of such members of the public are high health wise. The sole importance of health literacy to effective communication is to facilitate the control of maladies, and better still prevent them. However, the whole exercise is highly compromised by the social composition of the population at hand (Best, Vamos, Choi, Thompson, Daley & Friedman, 2017). Due to this, there is need to critically evaluate the social composition of the population at hand to ascertain the best way possible to deliver the health communication without raising evil thoughts from the individuals (Manganello et al., 2016). On the other hand, health literacy is vital to effective health information in the sense that it braces up the public to receive the complex health information that they are yet to receive from health experts. As stated by Crook, Stephens, Pastorek, Mackert and Donovan (2016), doing so helps the public understand the health policies and options and make favorable decisions since they already have a background on health matters. The accessibility of health services and information makes it easy to inform the public more on the issues concerning their health.

Subtly, most people fail to understand the health information they get because of the lack of past experiences in the health sector. However, in the case where health literacy has already occurred, patients find it a lot easier to relate and follow health information than in cases where they have not interacted with such terms and policies before. Health literacy makes it simpler to implement effective health communication and further deploy all the plans of effective communication, hence creating an important foundation for the comprehension of general health information (Crook et al., 2016).


Effective health communication and health literacy are more or less related. To expound on this, the former is to ensure the public is well educated on matters concerning health while the latter purposes to enable a healthy response from the public. In the case of an environment with diverse cultures, the mode, and manner of deploying the information to the public in such a way that it goes down among the people as it was intended. The same applies to health literacy, with the cultures of the individuals taken into account when ensuring public access to, and further comprehension of the available and crucial health care policies and services. Effective health communication refers to equipping individuals with the relevant knowledge and tools to respond to particular crises concerning health. Such issues include malaria and HIV/AIDS (Batterham et al., 2016).

Culture mostly refers to the set of beliefs, customs, values, and tradition specific to a certain group of people. The scenario applies to the manner in which the public belonging to a particular culture digest information given to them by the health practitioners. Concerning such a factor, health literacy and effective communication are both affected by culture and the general thinking by the public specific to a certain setting. Moreover, there is need to learn certain languages to facilitate communication in areas with low literacy levels. Such applies to both health literacy and effective communication in an attempt to sensitize the public (Batterham et al., 2016).

To another extent, similar factors and forces affect both health literacy and effective communication. Age, for instance, has an impact on both health literacy and effective health communication. In most cases, health literacy is lower in elderly population than it is in young people. The same applies to effective information where the elderly are the most difficult of populations to deliver health information. One other factor that affects both health literacy and effective information is the general literacy levels (Batterham et al., 2016).

Notably, it is hardly possible to enhance access to and information concerning health to populations with low literacy levels. Mostly, this is because of the hardship that comes with the general teaching and enabling of such individuals. Finally, the income levels among populations also compromise the extent of health literacy and effective health information. To flesh out on this, families with a low-income level are more likely to be health illiterate than those with income levels ranging from average to high (Batterham et al., 2016).

Besides, both health literacy and effective health information have similar sets of objectives. For example, they both purpose to enable a scenario of joint decision making between the patients and the health providers. Here, they both aim at reaching a consensus that favors both the patients and health practitioners. Again, they support self-management whereby the patients can take preventive measures concerning evadable maladies. Moreover, the sole purpose of health literacy and effective information is to improve the health standards of people and ensure their safety (Batterham et al., 2016).

Strategies employed to enhance health literacy and communication

Several approaches purpose to improve the health literacy and communication among individuals. Most of the strategies stated aim at tackling the setbacks and hindrances of realizing a health literate population. One of such challenges is the diversity in the cultural composition of a nation. In the acquisition of information from patients, the practitioners should enable internet connectivity in all health amenities such as hospitals because such services as computers are not readily available to each individual in need of healthcare (Best et al., 2017).

Simplifying web pages, also, goes a long way in ensuring accessibility of information to all people in a country. Additionally, provision of a table of contents on web pages and links leading to the homepage makes it simple for people to access and understand information. Moreover, the choice of HTML in the provision is better than the use of nonstandard formats, Flash and PDF for instance, because the latter require complementary software and more technical computer skills to open the documents. Mostly, doing so helps make access to information by the public easy over the internet. Moreover, the usability of the information on the internet can improve with the use of audio and video files, using an individual navigation, organizing information, and giving individuals the chance to navigate quickly (Best et al., 2017).

Besides, the patients that are more likely to misunderstand the health information, mostly agree to certain pieces of information. The individuals should be identified and dealt with keenness to enhance their understanding and transparency. Moreover, there should be hospitable environment in health amenities to ensure patients of the confidentiality of the information they give out. Generally, the initiative helps the patients open up more and give precise but exact information. The clarity of speech and keenness in listening helps get the point across while getting clearly what the person states (Best et al., 2017).

According to Best et al., (2017), one other strategy to improve the health literacy of individuals significantly is the provision of accurate and appropriate information. In this case, the medical experts need to identify specific information and services groups of people. It is worth noting that the comprehension of the users of any pieces of information be evaluated before, during, and after they get the information and services. Mostly, doing so helps ensure the information is understood as intended. Additionally, there is need to acknowledge the differences in culture and accord it the respect it deserves, hence comprehension of information across all cultures.

To enhance the simplicity of the information, there is need to use learning aids, pictures for instance. Such aids help individuals understand complex information. Generally, the undertaking helps users of the information to grasp the services and better still remember them with ease (Best et al. 2017).


To crown it all, health literacy refers to the accessibility and acquisition of health information by members of the public. Effective information, on the other hand, refers to the flow of information between the medics and the users of the health information. However, culture takes a significant proportion of the factors that affect this flow. Fortunately, there are several approaches to enhance this flow of information and its accessibility to the users, mostly members of the public.


Batterham, R. W., Hawkins, M., Collins, P. A., Buchbinder, R., & Osborne, R. H. (2016). Health literacy: applying current concepts to improve health services and reduce health inequalities. Public health, 132, 3-12.

Best, A. L., Vamos, C., Choi, S. K., Thompson, E. L., Daley, E., & Friedman, D. B. (2017). Increasing Routine Cancer Screening Among Underserved Populations through Effective Communication Strategies: Application of a Health Literacy Framework.

Crook, B., Stephens, K. K., Pastorek, A. E., Mackert, M., & Donovan, E. E. (2016). Sharing health information and influencing behavioral intentions: The role of health literacy, information overload, and the Internet in the diffusion of healthy heart information. Health communication, 31(1), 60-71.

Manganello, J., Gerstner, G., Pergolino, K., Graham, Y., Falisi, A., & Strogatz, D. (2016). The Relationship of Health Literacy with Use of Digital Technology for Health Information: Implications for Public Health Practice. Journal of public health management and practice: JPHMP.

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