Provider Trainings to Improve Health Literacy
This approach focuses on training healthcare professionals to increase their skills, with the overall goal of
improving organizational health literacy. Provider trainings build organizational health literacy by supporting
healthcare professionals in learning clear communication strategies and incorporating these techniques into
patient care. Two promising strategies that rural communities are using include the train-the-trainer approach
and incorporating cultural competency.
Train-the-trainer is an approach to training leaders and subject matter experts in specific concepts and skills,
so they can then effectively train others in the organization or community to use those concepts and
Programs that use a train-the-trainer approach to increase organizational health literacy can customize
trainings so that they support health literacy awareness among staff. Trainings can also be developed to help
create organizational goals and initiatives around health literacy. Having organizational goals tied to health
literacy is a key attribute of a health literate organization. Incorporating universal precautions techniques,
such as increasing understanding for all patients regardless of their health literacy level, into
train-the-trainer approaches may enhance both personal and organizational health literacy.
Cultural Competency Workforce Training
This training approach seeks to build the cultural competency skills of healthcare providers. Cultural
competency in healthcare means that an organization or healthcare setting acknowledges people's values,
beliefs, and behaviors and adapts healthcare services and communication to meet cultural and linguistic needs.
Using culturally competent approaches can improve how an individual understands health information, cares for
individual and family health, and makes decisions. Culturally competent care is foundational for reducing health
disparities and improving health equity.
When interacting with rural populations, it is important to consider the role of cultural and ethnic customs.
Learning the patients' needs and being respectful of their cultural background can aid in decision-making and
overall treatment plans. This may include gathering an understanding of a patient's health beliefs, health
customs, ethnic and religious beliefs, and dietary customs.
For more information about integrating cultural competency into rural
programs, see the Rural Services Integration Toolkit and for
additional rural program examples that incorporate cultural competency, see the Rural
Monitor and Rural Project
Examples: Culture and cultural competency.
Examples of Programs Using Provider Trainings to Improve Organizational Health Literacy
Western New York healthcare organizations are participating in the Health Literacy Call to Action
Health Literacy Trainer program funded by the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York. Virtual
training sessions are designed to offer resources and materials that can be customized to meet an
TeamSTEPPS Limited English Proficiency is an
evidence-based module created by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) that includes a
train-the-trainer curriculum as well as documents and instruction guides to teach trainers how to engage and
communicate with patients with limited English proficiency.
Messengers for Health strives to improve the health and
well-being of rural residents living on the Crow Indian Reservation and other areas in Montana. By
incorporating the cultural strengths of the community and heritage, they work to improve the health literacy
of tribal community members living within this region.
REACH Healthcare Foundation works in rural communities to address
health disparities by improving health coverage and access to care. One REACH-funded project involved
developing a framework to increase cultural competency in Kansas. Results highlight the importance of rural
culture as it relates to seeking, accessing, and providing effective healthcare. Findings suggest
that characteristics of rural culture should be considered when implementing programs to improve cultural
competency and ultimately healthcare access.
St. Charles Madras is a
Critical Access Hospital in Jefferson County, Oregon, that is implementing workforce trainings to improve
cultural competency of its staff. With funding from the Oregon Office of Rural Health, they created a
project to get patient feedback on how to improve cultural competency in care and are using this feedback to
design workforce training in the hospital.
The North Dakota Rural Health Association, the University of North Dakota (UND) Center for Rural Health, and
the UND Department of Family and Community Medicine developed a health literacy project for health
profession students and resident physicians called the Targeted Rural
Health Education (TRHE) Project. Through TRHE, health professionals learn how to write a
plain-language article with public health data that is understandable for rural communities and can be
published in a rural newspaper. The program is also featured in Rural Health Models & Innovations.
Program Clearinghouse Examples
Provider trainings are focused on improving health literacy at the organizational level, improving communication
between providers and their patients, and utilizing culturally competent strategies to improve overall health
outcomes for all patients. Trainings can also help build relationships within the community between healthcare
professionals and patients.
Implementing cultural competency training for healthcare providers and other staff in organizations involves
careful attention to resources for ongoing training and reflection. There is an increasing number of resources
that organizations can use to train their workforce on cultural competency principles, including National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically
Appropriate Services (CLAS).
Organizations should consider the potential need and importance of hiring and retaining staff that share
cultural values and speak the same language as community members. Providing language-concordant services and
translation services can help engage community members in their care. For example, employing translators from
the community and ensuring that translation services are available for all patient visits are also essential.
Organizations may consider partnering with other organizations to share translation services in areas where
these resources are harder to find.
Resources to Learn More
An excerpt from the Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit providing activities that address language and
sensory differences among patients in healthcare settings who need language assistance services such as
translators and written material in preferred languages.
Organization(s): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)
Sensitivity and Health Literacy: A Provider's Guide to Offering Culturally and Linguistically Sensitive
Offers tips and strategies to help healthcare providers and their organizations become culturally competent and
linguistically sensitive when caring for patients of diverse cultural beliefs and practices and/or with limited
health literacy and other communication needs.
Organization(s): Superior Health Plan
Offers trainings from a variety of sources for healthcare providers, public health professionals, and health
profession students on the provision of culturally and linguistically appropriate services for diverse
populations to improve health equity.
Organization(s): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Language, and Health Literacy
Provides resources supporting effective health communication to help healthcare providers acknowledge and
address the health literacy, language, and culture of diverse populations and communities.
Organization(s): Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
Principles of Community
Provides public health professionals, healthcare providers, researchers, and community-based leaders a
science-based practical guide for developing a community engagement plan that works collaboratively with the
community and other groups on public health projects.
Organization(s): National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)