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Challenges in communicating with ethnically diverse populations: The role of health literacy 

Challenges in communicating with ethnically diverse populations: The role of health literacy
Chapter:
Challenges in communicating with ethnically diverse populations: The role of health literacy
Author(s):

Bejoy C. Thomas

and Rebecca L. Malhi

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780198736134.003.0041
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date: 24 November 2017

Effective cancer communication is crucial for both clinicians and patients, yet is often suboptimal. Health literacy—the ability to access, comprehend, evaluate, and communicate health information—is a latent factor that may contribute to ineffective medical interactions. Limited health literacy has been associated with significant negative health outcomes and higher medical costs. Given the compelling evidence that ethnically diverse populations are particularly vulnerable, we use a narrative case example—a hypothetical clinical meeting between an oncologist and a newly-diagnosed patient—to highlight how patient risk factors for low health literacy (e.g. age, language, distress, etc.) may be amplified by clinician and contextual factors (e.g. using medical jargon, complexity of patient educational materials, etc.). Finally, we re-imagine the same clinical encounter and illustrate how some simple strategies could ameliorate the effects of low health literacy and facilitate communication and patient decision-making.

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