Cultural Competence in Health Care: Emerging Frameworks and Practical Approaches

As the United States becomes a more racially and ethnically diverse nation, health care systems and providers need to respond to patients’ varied perspectives, values, and behaviors about health and well-being. Failure to understand and manage social and cultural differences may have significant health consequences for minority groups in particular. The field of cultural competence has recently emerged as part of a strategy to reduce disparities in access to and quality of health care. Since this is an emerging field, efforts to define and implement the principles of cultural competence are still ongoing. To provide a framework for discussion and examples of practical approaches to cultural competence, this report set out to: Evaluate current definitions of cultural competence and identify benefits to the health care system by reviewing the medical literature and interviewing health care experts in government, managed care, academia, and community health care delivery. Identify models of culturally competent care. Determine key components of cultural competence and develop recommendations to implement culturally competent interventions and improve the quality of health care. (Authors)

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New York, NY: The Commonwealth Fund, 2002.