International Development, Community and Environment (IDCE)

Date of Award


Degree Type

Research Paper

Degree Name

<-- Please Select One -->

Chief Instructor

German Chiriboga

Second Reader

Ellen Foley


Throughout its lifespan the definition of health literacy in the United States has been ambiguous and disagreeable. This discrepancy has created disparity among health outcomes for vulnerable populations who are classified with lower degrees of health literacy and thus have a harder time interacting with the healthcare system. This paper will review published peer-reviewed literature on the topic of health literacy as it relates to immigrant populations in the United States and explore the ways in which low health literacy results in negative health outcomes. The literature review finds the discrepancies among health literacy, as it pertains to immigrant communities all stems from a lack of consistency among a definition of the concept. The gap identified is twofold such that, an inconsistent understanding makes it difficult to claim health literacy as a risk factor for poor outcomes. Moreover, because health literacy is linked to the use of language, the ways in which it is understood and exists within communities that don't use the dominant language becomes a complexity that lacks adequate research.



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