Overcoming health literacy barriers: a model for action

J Cult Divers. Summer 2011;18(2):60-5.


A large influx of Indonesian immigrants seeking asylum from racial and religious persecution into our hospital service area alerted providers to the need for specific cultural knowledge about this ethnic group, and to develop new skill sets to effectively care for this population. Health education programs that provide knowledge and tools to overcome misunderstandings that arise from differences between provider and client expectations for behavior will be most effective in overcoming the health literacy barriers that so often contribute to health disparities. A framework to understand factors that affect health literacy for local Indonesian asylum seekers guided community health education, while the written educational materials for programs informed providers about health literacy barriers for this population. Community outreach engaged local pastors and interpreters as cultural brokers to collaborate with nurses to develop and implement culturally sensitive programs that are socially sensitive to the local Indonesian refugee population.

MeSH terms

  • Communication Barriers*
  • Cultural Diversity*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Literacy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Indonesia / epidemiology
  • Models, Educational*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*
  • Refugees / education*
  • Social Support
  • United States / ethnology