Cultural Competency Issues In The Healthcare

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Cultural Competency Issues In The Healthcare

Cultural Competency Issues In The Healthcare


Culturally competent healthcare systems—those that provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services—have the potential to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities. When clients do not understand what their healthcare providers are telling them, and providers either do not speak the client's language or are insensitive to cultural differences, the quality of health care can be compromised. This paper discusses cultural competency issues in the healthcare professional. Moreover it also describes what are issues, the definition of cultural competency the challenges of serving a diverse population and how to implement concepts into a practice settings.


The need for culturally competent health care in the United States is great: racial and ethnic minorities are burdened with higher rates of disease, disability, and death, and tend to receive a lower quality of health care than nonminorities, even when access-related factors, such as insurance status and income, are taken into account. Health disparities related to socioeconomic disadvantage can be alleviated, in part, by creating and maintaining culturally competent healthcare systems that can at least overcome communication barriers that may preclude appropriate diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up. Cultural competence is an essential ingredient in quality health care. Providing culturally competent services has the potential to improve health outcomes, increase the efficiency of clinical and support staff, and result in greater client satisfaction with services.[1]

The surge of immigrants into the United States over the past 3 decades has brought a proliferation of foreign languages and cultures. Residents of the United States speak no less than 329 languages, with 32 million people speaking a language other than English at home. In response to this expanding cultural diversity, healthcare systems are paying increased attention to the need for culturally and linguistically appropriate services. Cultural and linguistic competence reflects the ability of healthcare systems to respond effectively to the language and psychosocial needs of clients. 

The Role of Culture in Health Care

Culture and ethnicity create a unique pattern of beliefs and perceptions as to what “health” or “illness” actually mean. In turn, this pattern of beliefs influences how symptoms are recognized, to what they are attributed, and how they are interpreted and affects how and when health services are sought. Cultural differences in the recognition and interpretation of symptoms and in the use of health services are the subject of a rich literature. 

Fifty years a classic study was conducted  on the effects of culture on pain: although pain was considered a biologic phenomenon, he found that sensitivity to pain and attributing significance to pain symptoms varied by culture and ethnicity. Almost 40 years ago Suchman accounted for ethnic differences among people seeking health care as related to social structures and relationships and the degree of skepticism about professional medical care. Delay in seeking care was found among individuals belonging to cultural groups characterized by ethnic exclusivity, traditional family authority, and high skepticism about medicine. More recently, level of acculturation has been shown to account for differences in the use of health services within ethnic groups after controlling for age, gender, health status, and insurance coverage. [2]

Defining Cultural Competence in Health Care

Cultural and linguistic competence is a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, or among professionals and enable effective work in cross-cultural situations. Culture refers to integrated patterns of human behavior that include the language, thoughts, ...
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