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Intercultural Communication in Health-Care

Bernadette M. Watson

Subject Medicine
Communication Studies » Health Communication, Intercultural Communication

Key-Topics health

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


In the twenty-first century mankind lives in a more multicultural environment than ever before. For many health practitioners this means they have to interact with people from different cultures. Good communication is vital to effective health-care, so communication problems in intercultural encounters have the potential to lead to patient misdiagnosis. In such encounters health practitioners not only face the natural barriers of communicating with patients who may be unfamiliar with the health practitioners’ language, but they may face an extra challenge when patients have culturally different health belief systems (→  Health Communication ; Doctor–Patient Talk ). Researchers have noted that much research on health-care communication has been atheoretical (e.g., Thompson 2003 ). Research into intercultural communication and health-care is no exception. Thus, one approach adopted by researchers of intercultural communication and health-care is to focus on the development of skills. When health-care professionals achieve good communication skills and intercultural understanding, intercultural communication competence (ICC) follows. The underlying assumption of ICC is that communication predominantly occurs at the interpersonal level and through training individuals gain knowledge and appreciation of other cultures, and cultural sensitivity develops (→  Intercultural Communication ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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