Today, we hear a variety of words tossed around such as racism, cultural sensitivity, cultural awareness, cultural competency among others. To clearly understand the significance of cultural competency, one has to understand what it is not.
What is racism?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, racism is a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race; racial prejudice or discrimination.
What is Cultural Awareness?
Having sensitivity and understanding towards members of other ethnic groups.
What is Cultural Competency?
It is the ability to effectively operate within different cultural contexts. Cultural Competence is based on these three keys;
What does cultural competency in health care mean?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health, cultural competence is the:
The Office of Minority Health (OMH) Center for Linguistic and Cultural Competence in Health Care is mandated by Congress to:
From these mandates, OMH developed 14 National Recommended Standards to inform, guide, and facilitate implementation of CLAS. Of these 14 recommended standards, the first three deal directly with cultural competent care.
A 2002 report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) shows that racial minorities receive appropriate care less frequently, which has an adverse impact on their health outcomes, including a higher reoccurrence of morbidity (incidence of disease) and mortality (death) rates.
Therefore, there is a huge need for cultural competent health care professionals, and to increase the numbers of minority health care professionals providing care to those minorities. Healthy People 2010 report, has it that the reality of health disparities among racial, and ethnic minorities highlights the need for increased numbers of culturally competent health care providers. The chart below shows we have a long way to go in increasing those disparities in minority health care professionals even though many ethnic groups are not represented here.
Why is this Important? Racial and Ethnic Distribution of Selected Health Professions: Source: HRSA, U.S. Census 2000
Click to enlarge
Asian/PI = Asian/Pacific Islanders
AI = American Indians
GRAAHI will work towards increasing minority applications to health care curriculum, as well as assisting those minority students in successful completion of those courses. Current health care professionals need to be proactive and attend cultural competency training even if not required by their health care employer. Remember, becoming culturally competent is a life long journey and something to strive for, not a one time class where you will learn only a small part of what cultural competency is but an ongoing process.
Also, in addition to gaining intentional class training, it is highly recommended to make competency a professional skill. To achieve this, it is recommended to take certain steps in building the strong holds, and importance of being culturally competent. Thus, to enable and empower meeting the health needs of patients in the public health sector.
One omitted but highly essential mandate health professional ought to develop is, how to meet the health needs to refugees. It is of good and quality reputation to gain the trust of all minorities. To enhance the process, more on working with refugees can be read here: https://www.ucare.org/providers/documents/6stepsculturalcompetence.pdf.