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Get Yo Edumacation!!!

Growing up being a first generation Ghanaian-Canadian, my brothers and I had to help our parents with documents, internet, healthcare and the list goes on. Fortunately, we received the education needed and were tested on our literacy skills (the Grade 11 Literacy test, remember that…..). And now during C19 it's even worse now, because not everyone is trained on how to scan documents, fax papers, and enter documents online.

Education and Literacy is a Social Determinant of Health, and I have touched upon some other social determinants such as Income and Social Status, and Childhood Experiences before.

What is a Social Determinant of Health?

Determinants of health are the broad range of personal, social, economic and environmental factors that determine individual and population health. There are 12 key social determinants of health. Social determinants of health refer to a specific group of social and economic factors within the broader determinants of health.

Experiences of discrimination, racism and historical trauma are important social determinants of health for certain groups such as Indigenous Peoples, LGBTQ and Black Canadians. (Government of Canada)

Is education the same as literacy?

Nope. Education is a systematic process including learning, experiencing and/or gaining the skills and knowledge which leads to development of some sort. Literacy is not only being able to read and write, it's the ability to apply what you have learned to your daily living. It’s the transmission of information.

You can be educated and literate, but literate and not educated.

Why is any of this important?

In summary, as we all know, those who are well-educated usually get a better job, have higher income, greater health literacy, and can navigate the health care system WHICH in all leads to better health.

Poorer health outcomes are associated with a reduced life expectancy.

Comparison Time: Lisa vs. Vanessa

Both Lisa and Vanessa were diagnosed with type-1-diabetes and were referred to a clinic. Below, we have a bit of information about the two.

At the clinic they were both taught about type-1-diabetes, the medications they may take, administration, hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia, sugar/glucose, Healthy Plate method, etcetera, etcetera. 3 months later they both return to the clinic and...

Both Lisa and Vanessa went to the same clinic.

Both Lisa and Vanessa received the same information.

Both Lisa and Vanessa received the same information.

Lisa had the education (+ income) and was literate enough to understand what next steps needed to be taken.

While Vanessa has not received the same level of education, to receive such a salary, may not be well equipped to make the best healthcare decisions.

As healthcare professionals, sometimes it's hard to work within a time-constraint. There can be a lot of noise when communicating.

Therefore, establishing enough rapport and knowing your client is KEY! it is important to take the right approach and also your time. It actually ends up saving us all a lot of time in the long run.

Ex. Suggesting taking Vitamin D daily, but taking the next step to say how, why it's important, and getting that said back to you is very important.

It's all about person-centered care.


Ha, J. F., & Longnecker, N. (2010). Doctor-patient communication: a review. Ochsner Journal, 10(1), 38-43.

Government of Canada. (2008). Chapter 4: The Chief Public Health Officer's report on the state of public health in Canada 2008 – Education and literacy. Retrieved from

Government of Canada. (2020). Social determinants of health and health inequalities. Retrieved from

Nutbeam, D., & Lloyd, J. E. (2021). Understanding and responding to health literacy as a social determinant of health. Annual Review of Public Health, 42.

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