Recognising the communication gap in Indigenous health care

Robert Amery
Med J Aust 2017; 207 (1): 13-15. || doi: 10.5694/mja17.00042

Improving shared understandings between health professionals and remote Indigenous people

The communication gap between health professionals and Indigenous Australians has a significant impact on health outcomes.1-4 Limited health literacy is not confined to Indigenous people,5 but it is greatly magnified for speakers of Indigenous languages in comparison, for example, to non-English speaking migrants from countries where a scientific approach to medicine is practised and where these health concepts are already codified. The communication gap is most pronounced in remote areas where cultural and linguistic differences are greatest. The close interdependence of language and culture amplifies the gap, such that communication difficulties in these communities run deeper than language barriers alone.

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  • Robert Amery

  • University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA


I thank Jane Thompson for providing practical examples relating to medical education, Mary-Anne Gale and David Scrimgeour for their comments on an early draft of this article, Steven Guthridge from the Department of Health in Darwin for his assistance, and the reviewers for their valuable comments.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

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