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Cultural Competency

This article focuses on cultural competency and how it has gained a lot of momentum in terms of equitable health care. Cultural competency is now becoming mainstream because it has become a major policy point in reducing racial and ethnic disparities in health care. Cultural competency is loosely described as the ability of a healthcare system (professionals) to demonstrate cultural competence towards a patient. In essence, it calls for healthcare systems to be considerate about social, cultural and linguistic preferences of a patient. The main aim of cultural competence is to reduce health disparities in a society. This has to be achieved via stakeholder partnership - academia, health sector, education, government and the business sector have to come together and build cultural competency.

Research clearly shows that racial and ethnic minorities have higher morbidity and morality rates. Additionally, racial and ethnic minorities are more vulnerable to financial pressures. As a result, they usually lack access to health care and health care facilities. Additionally, higher proportions of minorities in North America don’t even have health insurance. The readings also clearly discuss how social determinants of health highly influence a person’s vulnerability to mental illness. While the reading discusses it in the context of mental health, it raises an important point that is often overlooked - social determinants act towards positive as well as negative health; it can increase or decrease someone’s risk of developing an illness.

An important component of cultural competency is the fact that lack of cultural competency may lead to patient dissatisfaction. If the providers, organizations, and systems are not working together to provide culturally competent care, patients are at higher risk of having negative health consequences, receiving poor quality care, or being dissatisfied with their care.

It also iterated that the aim is to move away from acknowledging the importance of cultural competency and start making is mainstream. Each and every sector related to health service needs to recognize the extreme diversity that exists. If this is achieved, only then can services move from a position of consultation to working alongside communities. This ensures equity and social justice.   

There are four important pillars of cultural competency; these are better coordination, better information, community engagement and development of culturally appropriate services.  The readings iterated that systems need to be focused more on health promotion as well as diversity of treatment. Further, health services need to improve linguistic competency strategies while offering services that are cost-effective and affordable.

While there is a lot of work to be done, health systems have started adopting comprehensive strategies to accommodate for racial and ethnic minorities. There are increasingly more state and federal guidelines that encourage health systems to cater to diversity. There are also efforts from the academic side; there is a lot of research being carried out that is looking into best strategies and best practices of improving cultural competency. 

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