An investment not an expense: enhancing health literacy in culturally and linguistically diverse communities

Public health Investments Immigration Multiculturalism Health literacy Australia Victoria

In 2011, the Ethnic Communities' Council of Victoria (ECCV) Health Policy Subcommittee was made aware of increasing concern, emerging from health service providers, regarding the often very low levels of health literacy present within CALD communities. After much discussion around the reasons why this may be the case and the impacts this may have, the ECCV Health Policy Subcommittee established the ECCV Health Literacy Working Group.

This document is the outcome of the work and consultation undertaken by the ECCV Health Literacy Working Group. This paper aims to provide information and recommendations to the Victorian government, with a view to ensuring that the needs of CALD Victorians are considered in future policies and projects aimed at improving health literacy.

Low health literacy is a nation-wide problem and it is extremely costly to all Australians, both in the burden it brings to bear on our healthcare systems and in terms of human costs, such as reduced quality of life for the many Australians who could, potentially, be healthier. For CALD Victorians, the problem of low-health literacy needs to be tackled via targeted strategies and resources, as this is the only way to overcome exacerbating factors such as language and literacy barriers, differing cultural perceptions of health, culturally unresponsive services and the lifestyle upheavals that can accompany migration and settlement.

For the purposes of this paper the key issues identified have been divided into the following four core areas:

  • Health literacy in the current policy context
  • Language, literacy and health literacy
  • Culture and health literacy
  • Community capacity building for improved health literacy
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