Cultural Competence in Healthcare

Jun 13, 2018

Imagine this: a sixty-year-old woman who just recently moved here from Saudi Arabia is diagnosed with breast cancer, and her medical team is made up of all males. She goes against everything she has been taught since birth when she has to undress in front of these men. Imagine the internal conflict she would feel having to choose between her health and her values.

Although this particular example is hypothetical, it is not a far cry from the experiences that many people have throughout the United States’ healthcare system due to a lack of cultural competence.

In 2004, Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute defined cultural competence as “the ability of providers and organizations to effectively deliver health care services that meet the social, cultural, and linguistic needs of patients.” The idea of healthcare professionals being culturally competent extends much farther than medical interpretation in different languages. Providers should practice cultural humility by being open to learning about the family values, societal norms, and healthcare beliefs of minority groups.

Many organizations, including the Department of Health & Human Services, are taking steps to educate those involved with patient care on the importance of cultural competence. The Office of Minority Health has created an online training platform called Think Cultural Health that provides free continuing education courses for medical workers of all types to ensure that patients receive quality, culturally competent healthcare whenever they need it.

Content for this segment was created by Zack Koeller as part of a project for SC301: Foundations of Health Communication, taught by Ms. Clubbs.

Juckett, G. (2013). Caring for Latino Patients. American Family Physician, 87(1), 48-54.