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The number of older people in the population is increasing faster than for any other age group. This population growth, while positive, is associated with increasing incidence of chronic and progressive diseases such as dementia. This requires older people to navigate services that may not be designed to meet their needs. This issue can be further amplified in culturally and linguistically diverse populations who often have limited English language proficiency and limited knowledge of diseases such as dementia. Health literacy, a person’s ability to access, understand, appraise and apply information about their health and health care, including navigating health services, is low among older people and even lower among older people born overseas. This paper describes findings from a recent research study which developed and used the Cultural Exchange Model. The model is based on a process of collaboration, whereby researchers, service providers and community members work together to build evidence about a particular topic, in this case dementia. The study demonstrated that the Cultural Exchange Model facilitates opportunities for researchers, health professionals, community workers and carers to improve their knowledge of conditions such as dementia and rapidly translate evidence into practice. It also showed that it is possible to recruit, engage and generate new knowledge within populations that are traditionally excluded from research but have high prevalence of dementia. This study shows health literacy is an evolving process. Access to ongoing education for professionals, not only of the clinical condition and the service system, but also the cultural elements of the communities they are working with, requires consideration.


School of Nursing, Midwifery & Paramedicine

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Journal Article

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