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This research and literature review paper shall examine health literacy in all its intricacies and fundamental components.  The paper will emphasis the intergenerational differences between first-, second, and third-generation Chinese Americans within the United States.

To ensure that the research is compiled with validity it shall seek to incorporate a variety of references which show explicit data that such differences are indeed apparent. Furthermore, this paper will identify the roles that culture, language, and social level play in the challenges associated with health literacy.

These challenges will be revealed from various aspects including trust levels, educational background, and ethnic associations. This trust connection will be vital to the overall analysis of health literacy because it shall correlate the various relationship patterns and trends found between a physician-patient, a patient-healthcare system, and other medical relationship components.

Our findings shall highlight how such data within health literacy is in-synch with other ethnic groups such as Hispanics. Lastly, we shall reveal why it is vital to examine health literacy and comprehend how such intergenerational differences have a direct affect upon society itself.

What is Health Literacy?

Healthy People 2010 describes health literacy as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.”

The general definition of health literacy encompasses the ability of individuals to read and understand health information. A more specific version defines health literacy as “the wide range of skills, and competencies that people develop over time to seek out, comprehend, evaluate, and use health information and concepts to make informed choices, reduce health risks, and increase quality of life” (Zarcadoolas,  Pleasant, & Greer, 2006)

They can then use this information to wisely make decisions about their personal health and medical care because they understand that health literacy encompasses four central sphere of influences; which are fundamental, scientific, civic, and cultural literacy. In understanding the importance if health literacy, we must understand that health information provided to the community on the regular basis can sometimes include jargon or terminology to which people might be unfamiliar.

It is vital to recognize that obtaining health care information or adequate medical assistance is a challenging and complex task and this situation must be addressed both by the public as well as professional health care providers.

Often health professionals, such as nurses, specialists, doctors, etc.., are unable to clearly articulate or break down into simple words the health issues or problems being faced by their patients. For those with limited health literacy, this means they might have difficulty obtaining this information much less understanding how it directly affects the aid they will receive.

Thus, health professionals are also a key part of overcoming the publics’ limitations towards health literacy. Health literacy plays a strong role in individuals seeking to fill out complex medical forms which might contain language which they are unable to decipher or receive definition for. Such forms usually contain a required signature which an individual might unwittingly sign and thus leave them liable for something they were unaware of.

Furthermore, limited health literacy might lead to such individuals being able to locate the services of providers or specialists which might be able to support or aid them (http://www.health.gov/communication/literacy/quickguide/factsbasic.htm).

For instance, some individuals seeking to rid themselves of plantar warts might be unaware of the name of this condition or the specialist title, podiatrist, which can provide them the required aid. This leads to limited ability of an individual to adequately care for themselves or explain what is occurring in their condition.

When attempting to share personal information with a provided or managed care facility, those with limited health literacy might be unable to clarify or iterate their health or family history which might aid in diagnosing their condition efficiently and effectively.

This in turn, might lead to chronic diseases or conditions being faced with either misdiagnoses or ignored. Lastly, it has been seen that health literacy helps individuals comprehend how to take prescribed or over-the-counter medications (http://www.health.gov/communication/literacy/quickguide/factsbasic.htm).

With these issues in mind, we shall be uncovering the significance of health literacy in today’s society and recognizing how intergenerational differences among Chinese Americans have changed their attendance to health literacy issues. This awareness of health literacy is prevalent among the more educated and affluent and must also be examined in-depth.

How is Health Literacy Considered to Be Culture, Population, and Ethnicity-Based?

 Studies and research has provided that health literacy is directly tied to culture, ethnicity, and populations. Health literacy’s objective should be to educate individuals. This objective must be considered a process because it is dependent on several individual and systematic factors: 1) communication skills 2) knowledge of health topics 3) culture 4) demands of the health care systems 5) demands of the situation. (http://www.health.gov/communication/literacy/quickguide/factsbasic.htm)

From a cultural perspective, it is pertinent to understand the role that culture plays in health literacy. Individuals from non-westernized backgrounds will have a different language, a different set of values, beliefs, traditions, health practices, and attitudes.

Because of these differences, professional must be educated in understanding what culture their patient originates from. This would allow them to take a step back and communicate across the cultural barrier that might exist. Hence, they might begin believe that westernized medicine is in line with their personal culture (http://www.jyi.org/volumes/volume6/issue5/features/feng.html).

From an ethnic perspective, our society is based upon people from differing ethnic backgrounds. As religion plays a key role in ethnic origins, professional health literacy for some might include not having a male doctor seeing a female patient or perhaps a female patient not revealing any personal or family history information about herself because she might be unaware or overwhelmed by her inability to comprehend what is her condition (http://www.jyi.org/volumes/volume6/issue5/features/feng.html).

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