Limited health literacy is recognized as contributing to racial/ethnic and other health disparities through mechanisms of poor understanding and adherence, and limited access to health care. Recent studies have focused on interventions to address literacy gaps between patients and healthcare providers, focusing on communication techniques and redefining the responsibility for closing gaps. Cultural differences between patient and provider, if left unaddressed, have been shown to contribute to poor health outcomes through misunderstanding, value conflicts and disparate concepts of health and illness. The dual challenges of limited health literacy and cultural differences are likely to increase with an expanding, increasingly diverse and older population. There is evidence that training providers to attend to both issues can reduce medical errors, improve adherence, patient-provider-family communication and outcomes of care at both individual and population levels. The two fields continue to have separate trajectories, vocabularies and research agendas, competing for limited curricular resources. We present a conceptual framework for health professions education that attends simultaneously to limited health literacy and cultural differences as a coherent way forward in training culturally competent providers with a common skill-set to deliver patient-centered care that focuses on health disparities reduction.