Health literacy is an important aspect of culturally competent healthcare. How a patient understands and uses health information is directly tied to his or her cultural attitudes and beliefs. The patientís health literacy can be affected not only by cultural beliefs, but also by low educational level and limited English proficiency The culturally competent healthcare professional must not only respect the patientís culture and beliefs, but also his or her ability to understand the health information being provided. Health professionals incorporate health literacy principles into their practices, programs and policies as a means of reducing health disparities and increasing positive health outcomes.
The nationís first academically-based health literacy center, the Herschel S. Horowitz Center for Health Literacy, was established at the University of Maryland School of Public Health in Fall 2007. The Centerís mission is to strengthen capacity of the public health workforce to both know and apply health literacy principles in their practices. Its work focuses on current and emerging public health professional education, outreach and accompanying research on health literacy and health outcomes.
The following links provide additional resources pertaining to health literacy and cultural competency:
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality webpage on Health Literacy and Cultural Competency provides resources on funding and grant opportunities, recent articles on the health literacy topic, reports on how health literacy is related to health outcomes, and links designed for patients to better understand their health literacy.
In 2000, the National Library of Medicine conducted a comprehensive literature search of research studies contributing to the field of health literacy. This included a listing of 479 citations, addressing the theoretical and methodological background, constructs and strategies for identifying, measuring and improving health literacy.
The Cross Cultural Health Care Program (CCHCP) provides a comprehensive list of resources including video clips, books, and test (assessment) materials for culturally appropriate care across different groups. You can find assessment tools on the site here.
The Institute of Medicineís Roundtable on Health Literacy website archives past Roundtable meetings often including leading research and presentations on health literacy. It also provides a link to the 2004 IOM Report, Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion
- Information, research findings and curricula for health professionals is available from Harvard University School of Public Healthís Health Literacy Studies, part of the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy.
- The National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) provides the latest data on the status of health literacy in the United States, including the report The Health Literacy of Americaís Adults: Results from the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy.
- World Education, funded by the National Institute for Literacy, developed a Health and Literacy Special Collection, archiving print and Web-based health materials for use with limited-literacy populations. The Collection includes a tutorial on health literacy and a guide to easy-to-read health materials and web sites
- Free on-line training is available from the Health Resources and Services Administration for healthcare professionals that will improve communication skills with patients, increase knowledge and awareness of health literacy and cultural competency, and provide information on how to appropriately address patients with limited English proficiency.
- The American Society on Aging published briefs on health promotion for older adults, and one issue is focused on health literacy for the older population.
- The Health Literacy and Cultural Competency Provider Toolkit is offered by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and it provides healthcare professionals with resources to help them manage patientís with differing levels of health literacy.
- The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has a 3-part series on health literacy which offers definitions of health literacy, access to web and print materials, the relation between health literacy and cultural competence, and resources for clinicians.
- One of the goals of Healthy People 2010 is to improve health by improving communication strategies; health literacy being one of the objectives.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides links to tools for improving health literacy, government resources, and reports and research on health literacy.
- Wellness Information Zone is a health literacy project in public libraries and nonprofits developed by The Humana Foundation. The Spanish portal links to 56 sites with basic health information in Spanish.
- The More Than Words Toolkit Series is a resource for clarifying the translation process and providing a roadmap to help health care organizations improve the quality of their translated materials in order to get better results.
- Health Literacy for Public Health Professionals is the online course offered by CDC, which introduces participants to the fundamentals of health literacy and demonstrate the importance of health literacy within public health practice.
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