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Newsletter Article


Cultural Competency: Moving the Agenda Forward

Medical professionals who are "culturally competent" consider a patient's race and ethnicity, cultural background, primary language, health practices, and value systems when recommending treatment and providing care. Although more and more health care organizations, clinicians, and medical schools are recognizing the importance of cultural competency in health care delivery, there is still plenty of work to be done to make it truly a part of everyday medical practice.

At the National Conference on Quality Health Care for Culturally Diverse Populations, held in Seattle in October, The Commonwealth Fund released a series of five reports exploring how cultural competency can improve quality and outcomes for patients, reduce disparities, and help patients become more active and engaged in their care. The papers, written by some of the foremost leaders in the field, cover such topics as:

  • the intersection of patient-centered care and cultural competency
  • how cultural competency can reduce disparities and achieve higher performance in health care
  • the evidence to date showing that cultural and linguistic competence improves health outcomes and patient well-being
  • how "the patient's perspective" can be incorporated into existing measures of health care quality
  • initiatives undertaken by health care providers to make cultural competency a reality.

All five reports, as well as guest commentaries by Robyn Y. Nishimi, Ph.D., chief operating officer of the National Quality Forum, and Paul M. Schyve, M.D., senior vice president of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, are available on the Fund's Web site.

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