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Patient Educ Couns. 2008 Jun;71(3):328-32. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2008.03.001. Epub 2008 Apr 2.

Meeting the health literacy needs of immigrant populations.

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George Mason University, Department of Communication, 4400 University Avenue, MS 3D6 Fairfax, VA 22030, United States.



Immigrant populations are vulnerable to serious health disparities, with many immigrants experiencing significantly worse health outcomes, such as higher rates of morbidity and mortality, than other segments of society. Immigrants disproportionately suffer from heart attacks, cancer, diabetes, strokes, HIV/AIDS, and many other serious diseases. These health risks demand effective health communication to help immigrants recognize, minimize, and respond effectively to potential health problems. Yet, while the need for effective communication about health risks is particularly acute, it is also tremendously complicated to communicate effectively with these vulnerable populations.


A literature review using online databases was performed.


Immigrants often have significant language and health literacy difficulties, which are further exacerbated by cultural barriers and economic challenges to accessing and making sense of relevant health information.


This paper examined the challenges to communicating relevant information about health risks to vulnerable immigrant populations and suggested specific communication strategies for effectively reaching and influencing these groups of people to reduce health disparities and promote public health.


Communication interventions to educate vulnerable populations need to be strategic and evidence-based. It is important for health educators to adopt culturally sensitive communication practices to reach and influence vulnerable populations. Community participative communication interventions are a valuable strategy for integrating consumers' perspectives into health education efforts and building community commitment to health communication interventions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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