Bridging the Cultural Divide

4 minutes

When it comes to health care, the United States is one of the most divided countries on the planet. Now more than ever before, race, ethnicity and cultural differences have created disparities in the treatment of many of these minority populations in the United States.

There’s a growing need to enhance services for these culturally and linguistically diverse populations and many health and human service organizations are working to create cultural competence to combat the problem.

What is Cultural Competence?

Culture refers to the “integrated patterns of human behavior that include the language, thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, and institutions of racial, ethnic, religious, or social groups. 'Competence' implies having the capacity to function effectively as an individual and an organization within the context of the cultural beliefs, behaviors, and needs presented by consumers and their communities.”

Essentially, cultural competence is the ability to work with people of different races, genders, ages, sexual orientation, spirituality/religion, socioeconomic status and those who speak a different language. It’s employing a set of defined behaviors, attitudes and policies to bridge the gap in cross-cultural situations. Being culturally competent means that you can set aside what you think you know about a person and their situation, and work within the context of their cultural beliefs, behaviors and needs to provide the best care possible.

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