Cultural Competence

Cultural competency is fundamental to the elimination of health disparities. Cultural competency is the universal language of health care that is intended to increase positive health outcomes through “respectful response of an individual’s health beliefs, practices, as well as their cultural and linguistic needs” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2005).

Cultural Competency influences:

  • how health care providers interact with patients;
  • the health and healing process of the patient; and
  • the patients’ beliefs and/or attitudes toward disease, the treatment process and the health care provider (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2005).

Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services or CLAS standards are a set of guidelines defined by the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health to facilitate “culturally and linguistically accessible services” for patients/healthcare consumers. CLAS standards are organized into three main themes which address cultural competency at the individual and organizational level. Themes are as follows: (Department of Health and Human Services, 2007).

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