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How health plans improve health literacy for diverse populations


October 22nd, 2014 by Alicia Caramenico

During health literacy month. it’s important to remember that cultural or language issues can affect the ability to obtain, understand, and use health information. It’s why the language used is critically important when developing resources for consumers.

For many Hispanic and Latino consumers who never had health coverage before, WellPoint offers education on why insurance is important and the value it brings to them and their family. Its education efforts aim to remove confusion with health insurance-related words, as well as explain the importance of preventive care services, how to read an explanation of benefits, and find a doctor.

To eliminate language barriers, Cigna developed easy-to-understand Spanish programs that inform Hispanics about Medicare and other insurance options. Cigna also developed cultural competency training for its clinical staff so they can better identify and assist customers who are new to health insurance. To help its non-English speaking members, UCare employs interpreters and Customer Service language line reps who speak Hmong, Somali, and Spanish.

Health plans bring easy-to-understand health care information

to diverse cultural groups in many ways. Cigna, for example, partners with Spanish-language TV network Telemundo to address common health issues and disparities in that population. And Humana holds educational initiatives with African American churches, events with some Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, and educational events targeted to multicultural audiences.

Health plans are even taking health education and outreach programs on the road. Cigna has a bilingual mobile learning lab that features culturally relevant and interactive exhibits on nutrition, stress, exercise, and disease prevention. The lab makes the information understandable by using common everyday words. So far, about 800 people in the Phoenix and Houston areas alone have visited the traveling health care learning center.

With a growing number of non-English speakers entering the U.S. health care system, health plans are designing health literacy efforts around diverse populations to help them use new health care benefits to achieve good health. Follow our health literacy series here .

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