Intercultural Communication is Necessary for Effective Health Care Outcomes

by Lawrence Jones, PhD

An aspect of adequate health care will rely on effective communication. Although communication is often interpreted in a contextual form by healthcare providers, verbal and non-verbal communication can directly affect patient health outcomes. Communication can be the source of any problems, and intercultural communication is a topic that does not get talked much about. Health care providers must understand that there is a need for intercultural communication. Black maternity health, low representation of black people in clinical trials, medication over medication among African Americans, and poor nutrition (particularly for the young), to name a few. Childhood obesity has been one of the significant epidemic pandemics for the last four decades, long before the COVID pandemic. Although we live in a very affluent society, there are still discrepancies in our health care system.

Even within the African American communities defined as middle class or upper-middle-class, there are still inadequacies, particularly in the black indigenous and people of color communities in the United States. Verbal and nonverbal health communication in the media and print is essential to reduce barriers that interfere with doctor-patient health care communications and relationships. For instance, patients have to be transparent about their ailments and the side effects of any prescribed medication. Often there are social biases that stem from systemic racial discrimination. Ledford (2019) reveals a study that shows racial disparities exist in health care by statistical algorithms which look at racial inequality objectively.

Neuliep (2000) talks about different types of communication that influence effective communication between people. He mentions a cultural environment, the physical environment, the relational environment, and the perceptual domain. Perhaps communication for direct health care effectiveness, whether face to face or through virtual social platforms, has to consider this. England (1992) mentions that communication is how people influence and persuade others across geographies. England explains that our differences with others are made up of individuals working collectively for the benefit of everyone, not just their own group; through open and honest intercultural communication, people can learn to work.

Neuliep (2000) also mentions that as you communicate with people from different cultures, you retain more. You will know that although your cultures are different, you have much in common as human beings. We just have different ways of achieving them.


England, J.T. (1992) Building Community for the 21rst Century.


Hall, E. T., & Hall, T. (1959). The silent language (Vol. 948). Anchor books.

Ledford, H. (2019). Millions of black people are affected by racial bias in healthcare algorithms.

Nature, 574(7780), 608-610.

Neuliep, J. W. (2020). Intercultural communication: A contextual approach. Sage Publications

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