Aim: This review discusses two main questions: how suitable is current consumer medication information for minority ethnic groups, and what are effective strategies to overcome existing barriers. The focus is on minority groups whose first language is not the language of the healthcare system.
Method: We searched electronic databases and printed scientific journals focusing on (ethnic) minorities, health and/or (intercultural) communication. We also asked a discussion group for references.
Results: We found only a few articles on intercultural communication on medication or pharmacy information and one article on the improvement of intercultural communication in the pharmacy. Barriers to the access of medication information by ethnic minorities include second language issues and cultural differences due to different health beliefs, together with the low socio-economic status often seen among ethnic minorities. Cultural differences also exist among different socio-economic classes rather than only among ethnic groups. Most often, informal interpreters are used to improve intercultural communication. However, this may result in miscommunication due to a lack of medical knowledge or training on the part of the interpreter. To minimise miscommunication, bilingual health professionals or health interpreters/advocates can be used, although communication problems may still occur. The effectiveness of written information depends on the literacy skills of the target population. Cultural, medical and dialect biases should be avoided by testing the material. Multimedia systems may be alternatives to conventional written information.
Discussion: Barriers that ethnic minorities face in accessing medication information and possible solutions involving counselling and additional tools were identified for pharmacy practice. However, more research is needed to develop effective strategies for patient counselling in pharmacy to meet the needs of ethnic minorities.