For many Mary’s Center participants, English is a second language, and language barriers can pose significant challenges when it comes to healthcare. For them, navigating the healthcare system can be daunting and overwhelming. In this blog, we will explore how Mary’s Center empowers our participants to make informed decisions about their health and well-being.
Understanding Health Literacy and Challenges:
Health literacy refers to an individual’s ability to obtain, process, and understand health information and services to make informed decisions about their health. Low health literacy can happen to any individual regardless of income, education level, intellect, and reasoning skills. It is based on language and cultural differences or a lack of context or shared frame of reference. For non-English speakers, health literacy takes on an added dimension due to the language barrier.
We have found among our participants, that many non-English speakers struggle to understand medical jargon, follow instructions on medication labels, comprehend medical forms, or effectively communicate their symptoms to their providers. Furthermore, language barriers can make even finding an address or writing it down more difficult. Many of our participants get confused with so many different medications and/or an unclear treatment plan. This lack of effective communication can fail to understand the diagnosis and follow the appropriate treatment.
Health Literacy for Non-English Speakers:
1. Empowering Decision-Making: Adequate health literacy enables participants to understand their health conditions and to actively participate in their healthcare decisions, leading to better health outcomes.
2. Bilingual Communication: Health literacy is improved when information is shared in one’s native language. This can help non-English speakers express their concerns, symptoms, and medical histories accurately.
3. Promoting Preventive Care: Non-English speakers who are health literate can access relevant health information, and understand the importance of vaccinations, screenings, and healthy lifestyle choices, thereby reducing the risk of preventable diseases.
4. Improving Medication Management: Health literacy equips non-English speakers with the knowledge to read and interpret medication labels, follow prescribed regimens, and seek clarification when needed.
5. Enhance Cultural Understanding: Health literacy among non-English speakers encourages providers to adopt culturally sensitive practices and communicate in a way that respects and accommodates diverse cultural backgrounds.
Promoting Health Literacy at Mary’s Center:
1. Multilingual Resources & Outreach: Mary’s Center provides multilingual resources, including translated materials and bilingual providers. We engage the community with information, in English, Spanish, and Amharic, but also other languages as needed about our health programs, social services, and English and literacy classes.
- Interpreter Services: Mary’s Center offers interpreter services to facilitate effective communication between non-English speakers and their providers. This ensures accurate information exchange and minimizes the risk of misunderstandings.3. Collaborative Efforts: Mary’s Center works with local and federal government, healthcare providers, and community organizations to advocate for and develop comprehensive health literacy initiatives that address the unique needs of non-English speakers.
- Empowerment Programs: At Mary’s Center, we offer the My Health GPS program which helps our participants to be empowered to take charge of their health and wellness by helping them manage complex health needs more effectively and increase their quality of life.
- Self-Advocacy: We also encourage our participants to keep a notebook to keep track of their appointments and contact information of the different specialists or medications. Also, ask their doctors to write their contact information and instructions in the notebook.
Health literacy plays a pivotal role in empowering our participants to navigate the healthcare system effectively. By improving their understanding of health information, facilitating clear communication, and promoting preventive care in their language, health literacy ensures better health outcomes and reduces healthcare disparities. Our goal is to create a healthcare environment that is inclusive, culturally sensitive, and supportive of the health literacy needs of all, including non-English speakers.