Addressing Communication Inequalities to Advance Health Equity

HCIRB supports research to address communication inequalities with the goal of advancing health equity. Communication inequalities are differences in individual or group-specific exposure to health communication messages and in the capacity to access, process, and act upon the information received. These differences can contribute to or exacerbate existing cancer disparities. HCIRB encourages research examining the impact of communication inequalities on cancer-related outcomes, and the development, testing, and implementation of strategies to address communication inequalities.

Research priorities include:

Health Literacy

Health literacy is the degree to which individuals can find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others, as well as the degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to find, understand, and use health information and services. Limited health literacy is associated with lower rates of preventive care, worse treatment adherence, and poorer health-related quality of life. Health literacy may contribute to differential health outcomes by affecting utilization and navigation of health care, patient-provider interactions, and disease self-management.

HCIRB encourages innovative research that examines the role of health literacy in public health and cancer care, and tests interventions at the individual or organizational level to improve health literacy or mitigate the negative effects of limited health literacy.

Limited English Proficiency

Limited English proficiency can adversely impact health care access and health outcomes. For example, people with limited English proficiency are less likely to have a regular source of care, less likely to receive preventive care, and have lower rates of cancer screening. Limited English proficiency can also pose a barrier to effective health communication: those with limited English proficiency may have less understanding of health information, poorer perceptions of interactions with providers, and higher rates of medical errors due to miscommunication.

HCIRB encourages health communication research that focuses on the needs of populations with limited English proficiency.

The Digital Divide

The digital divide refers to differences in access to or use of information technology across populations. Digital health technologies (e.g., mobile apps, telehealth, patient portals, wearable devices) have the potential to enhance health and quality of life by helping individuals find health information, monitor their health, and obtain support. However, unequal access to and use of technology among certain groups also has the potential to further exacerbate existing health disparities. Therefore, it is vital to understand how the digital divide contributes to health disparities and ensure that technologies reduce inequities rather than exacerbate them.

HCIRB encourages research that seeks to understand and address the impact of the digital divide on health and health disparities.

Medical Mistrust and Discrimination in Health Care Settings

Trust and trustworthiness are cornerstones of quality care across the cancer continuum. Building trust is especially important in historically marginalized communities, as medical mistrust stemming from historical trauma and present-day discrimination is associated with lower rates of preventive behaviors and poorer health outcomes among people of color and other underserved groups. Patient-centered communication has been shown to reduce the effects of medical mistrust, which suggests that targeting communication could be an important strategy for increasing trust.

HCIRB supports research focused on the relationships between communication and medical mistrust, bias, and discrimination, and the development of communication interventions to address medical mistrust in health care settings.

Funding Opportunities

Check back later for future funding announcements. 

View Past Funding Announcements

Last Updated
April 11, 2024