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Research Articles

Vol. 3 No. 1 (2023): Georgetown Scientific Research Journal: Fall 2022 Issue

Best Practices for Health Literacy Education for English Language Learners

June 6, 2022


Health literacy is the ability to retrieve, understand, and utilize health information. Poor health literacy is associated with diminished participation in primary and secondary disease prevention strategies, worsened mental health outcomes, and difficulties navigating the healthcare system—especially for English Language Learners (ELLs) who have language barriers. Pre-health undergraduate students at Georgetown University worked in partnership with the Alaska Literacy Program in 2021 to deliver two virtual health literacy courses titled “Health in the English Language” to 28 adult ELLs. This paper aims to detail key takeaways regarding best practices for virtual learning, teaching strategies, and the significance of health literacy experiences within pre-health education. Virtual learning increased course accessibility for students and instructors, supported the engagement of students’ family members and friends, and increased practice in digital literacy. Studying health literacy and engaging in experiential learning provides an important foundation for pre-health undergraduates to learn about how health can be influenced by one’s culture. Pre-health undergraduates gain insight into the importance of communicating with and advocating for non-native-English speaking patients. Observed success in virtual health literacy education supports developing partnerships for future implementation of health literacy courses in rural, under-resourced, and/or immigrant communities by pre-health college students.