Taquina Davis, PhD
The increased diversity of the nation brings opportunities and challenges to healthcare professionals, who will increasingly see clients and patients with diverse perspectives regarding health and care. Therefore, it is vital to create and deliver culturally competent services, care, and programs with a focused and strategic approach toward assisting with improved health outcomes, program development, and quality improvement processes.
Cultural competency allows professionals to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures. Social and cultural backgrounds influence motivations, beliefs, and decision-making. A culturally competent health care system can help improve health outcomes and eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities since patient-centered care focuses on the patient’s individual life experiences and healthcare journey. It also requires professionals having an open mind to understand and learn about someone else’s cultural beliefs as they relate to care.
According to the Health Policy Institute of Georgetown University, studies support the negative impact of delivered care when cultural sensitivity, competency, and humility are not present. Culture can influence treatment options, prognosis, health beliefs, and health practices. Healthcare professionals who display cultural competency can design and provide programs, education, and instruction that reflect the various cultures represented in diverse communities.
What is Cultural Competence?
The National Prevention Information Network defines it as the integration and transformation of knowledge about individuals and groups of people into a specific standard, policies, practices, and attitudes used in appropriate cultural settings to increase the quality of services, thereby producing better outcomes.
Research shows that patients with limited English get fewer preventive services and fewer visits to a physician. That lack of care could snowball into fewer immunizations, checkups, and screenings. When preventative care is ignored regularly, cancers and chronic diseases are caught late, leading to increased healthcare costs and poor health outcomes. Creating equitable and inclusive care, services, and dialogue is a game changer.
- Value cultural beliefs
- Collaborate with agencies
- Establish culturally competent requirements for healthcare professionals
- Institutionalize cultural competence
Healthcare professionals need to understand and empathize with the historical values, customs, and traditions of diverse populations they may serve. Open conversations are a good start toward understanding a person’s ideals and identity-related to race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, social needs, and education. Cultural humility can assist healthcare providers with understanding the complexity of identities and understanding a patient’s experience. Additionally, it allows for self-reflection and acknowledging one’s own biases. Constant inquisitiveness and curiosity rather than cessation can increase healthcare professionals’ competencies in the evolving nature of a patient’s experience. Stop to ask yourself:
- Do I have the resources I need to understand my patient’s diverse values, beliefs, and behaviors?
- Am I able to customize treatment to meet their social, cultural, and linguistic needs?
- What might be some of my own biases?
- How do I identify with myself and others?
Start the conversation to bring awareness. Health systems can start by assessing their current culture to create a strategic plan on where they need to go. Healthcare providers need to know and be aware of the health-related beliefs, practices, and cultural values of their diverse patient populations. Also, use creditable resources. The American Hospital Association (AHA), Institute of Diversity in Health Management (IFD), National Center for Healthcare Leadership (NHL), and the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) developed the Diversity and Cultural Proficiency Assessment Tools for Leaders to help organizations evaluate and ensure cultural proficiency in their organization.
Health Policy Institute. (2022) Cultural competence in health care: is it important for people with chronic conditions. Retrieved from www.hpi.georgetown.edu/cultural/
Brach, C., & Fraser, I. (2002). Reducing disparities through culturally competent health care: an analysis of the business case. Quality management in health care, 10(4), 15–28. https://doi.org/10.1097/00019514-200210040-00005
Jackson, C. S., & Gracia, J. N. (2014). Addressing health and health-care disparities: the role of a diverse workforce and the social determinants of health. Public health reports (Washington, D.C. : 1974), 129 Suppl 2(Suppl 2), 57–61. https://doi.org/10.1177/00333549141291S211
National Prevention Information Network. Cultural competence in Health and Human Services. www.npin.cdc.gov/pages/cultural-competence