Culture, Language, and Health Literacy Resources

Effective health communication is as important to health care as clinical skill. To improve individual health and build healthy communities, health care providers need to recognize and address the unique culture, language and health literacy of diverse consumers and communities.

Below are resources to assist health care providers in doing just that:


National Center for Cultural Competence Go to exit disclaimer.

  • The Center works to increase the capacity of health care programs to design, implement, and evaluate culturally and linguistically competent service delivery systems that address growing diversity, persistent disparities, and to promote health and mental health equity.


Cultural and Linguistic Competence

Limited English Proficiency (LEP)

  • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires recipients of Federal financial assistance to take reasonable steps to make their programs, services, and activities by eligible persons with limited English proficiency.

Cultural and Linguistic Competence Policy Assessment (CLCPA) Go to exit disclaimer.

  • Developed by the National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC) at the request of the Bureau of Primary Health Care (BPHC) at HRSA, to assist community health centers to advance and sustain cultural and linguistic competence.



Cultural Competency & HIV/AIDS Care

  • Culturally competent service providers are crucial to recruiting and retaining people living with HIV/AIDS into primary care, particularly when they are members of historically disenfranchised communities and populations such as people of color, gay men, women, and substance users.

TARGET Center: Tools for the Ryan White Community Go to exit disclaimer.

  • Technical assistance resources, guidance, education, and training for Ryan White programs.


Maternal & Child Health

Documenting the Implementation of Cultural and Linguistic Competence: A Guide for Maternal and Child Health Bureau Funded Training Programs Go to exit disclaimer. (PDF - 139 KB)

  • Provides suggested approaches that can be used for grant proposals, progress reports, and site visits to document these efforts or to document progress over time.


Key Definitions

Collecting Culturally- and Linguistically-Specific Patient Data

  • Under the Affordable Care Act, to the extent practicable, federal health data collections will include culturally- and linguistically-specific data on populations served. Guidance and tools have yet to be developed. This information serves as an advisory for program planners.


  • Attitudes and behaviors, which are characteristic of a group or community.

Cultural Competence

  • A set of similar behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, or among professionals that enables effective work in cross-cultural situations. Access additional information on cultural competence from the Office of Minority Health.

Limited English Proficiency

  • Individuals who do not speak English as their primary language and who have a limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand English can be limited English proficient, or "LEP." These individuals may be entitled language assistance with respect to a particular type or service, benefit, or encounter.

Health Literacy

  • The degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.

Plain Language

  • Writing that is clear, to the point, helps to improve communication and takes less time to read and understand.
Date Last Reviewed:  March 2018