Working Toward Becoming More Culturally Competent: The Healthcare Provider's Challenge
Racial and ethnic minorities tend to receive a lower quality of healthcare than non-minorities even when access-related factors such as insurance status and income are controlled for (Nelson, Smedley, & Stith, 2003). Nelson et al. noted that these disparities can be traced to many factors including historic patterns of legalized segregation and discrimination. African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders and some Asian Americans are disproportionately represented in lower socioeconomic ranks, in lower quality schools and in lower paying jobs. As a result the experiences of these groups in the world outside of the healthcare practitioner’s office are likely to affect their perceptions of and responses to the practitioners within the healthcare setting. It is therefore imperative that cross cultural curricula be integrated early into the training of future healthcare providers to help them work toward becoming more culturally competent. This should enhance their understanding of how healthcare disparities will impact an increasingly diverse patient population. Cultural Competence is a state of being capable of functioning effectively in the context of cultural differences individually and organizationally. The ability to function optimally in a diverse environment is a critical factor in organizational competitiveness within the new global economy. The goals of this article are to review the challenges healthcare providers, particularly the Primary Care Physician (PCP), face when providing care to racial and ethnic minorities and to examine strategies healthcare providers can use to meet those challenges.
Keywords: Culturally, Competence, Healthcare, Racial, Ethnic, Minorities, Training, Disparities
Dr. Samuel H. Hancock
Assistant to the President for Institutional Diversity and Assistant Professor within the Department of Medicine, The President's Office