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Checklist: Does Your Team Need Cultural Competency Training?

Every healthcare and wellness organization needs cultural competence training, no matter what. Being able to view clients and patients with an awareness of their cultural background has a huge impact on your agency and also each person’s health.

Cultural competency allows your team to bridge a gap between the people in your community and the healthcare system.

Health Disparities in Populations

This gap in care is down to bias blind spots—sometimes intentional and sometimes implicit or unconscious bias—that leaves out wide swaths of the population.

Too many people have vastly different healthcare experiences because of their race/ethnicity, income, geographic location, sexual preference, or other characteristics. These differences often lead to health disparities in populations.

More African Americans and Latinos, compared to whites, have at least one of seven chronic conditions:

  1. asthma
  2. cancer
  3. heart disease
  4. diabetes
  5. high blood pressure
  6. obesity
  7. anxiety/ depression

Some of this is because they don’t get treated quickly or at all, compared to white populations.

COVID-19 & Women's Health: What You Need To Know

Assessing Cultural Competence in Healthcare

Closing the gap in cross-cultural situation means that every single patient or client gets the care they need. Skipping cultural competency training is a sure way for those patients to fall into the gap.

Properly training healthcare and wellness employees will have a better self-awareness of their own biases and the ways that their clients receive inconsistent care base don their cultural beliefs and behaviors.

Knowing that you need cultural competence training at your work is step one. Assessing in what areas individuals might need extra training is step two.

Below is a checklist you can use as a basic starting point to see what are the general goals of a competency training program and where you might need help. Here is a list of many more assessments specific for different languages and working situations for a deeper dive.

Print out or save copies of this checklist and give it to your team members. Let them know that it’s not a quiz, it’s just a tool for assessing. They don’t need to add their name or even show it to you if they don’t want to. It’s just a way to rate a person’s level of cultural competency. Start now by taking it yourself.

Cultural Competency Self-Assessment

scoring
Scoring

Look at the number of checks in the “strongly agree” and “agree” columns. These reflect a higher level of competency. Think about signing up for training to improve those areas where there are checks in “neither agree nor disagree,” “disagree” and “strongly disagree.”

Ongoing Training

Cultural competency training isn’t a one-and-done event. Learning is a process with plenty of on-the-job practice that should extend throughout a person’s employment. Make sure you’re following the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) in Health and Health Care (PDF) and put together an ongoing training plan to keep improving.

Your community’s health will improve.

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Cultural Competency: What It Is and Why It’s Needed in Healthcare

Healthcare is better than ever, in many ways. Improvements in research and technology mean that providers and systems have the ability to screen and treat people early and better. This means that many people can avoid health problems that could disrupt their lives or cause early death.

But the ability to provide this kind of care is not the same as actually providing it. Too often, minority groups are left out of the innovation and don’t receive equal access to care.

→ Register Now: Women’s Health and COVID-19: What You Need to Know

Implicit Bias and Health Disparities

This gap in care is down to bias blind spots—sometimes intentional and sometimes implicit or unconscious bias—that leaves out wide swaths of the population.

People sometimes have vastly different healthcare experiences because of their race/ethnicity, income, geographic location, sexual preference, or other characteristics. These health disparities mean that many populations are disproportionately burdened by chronic illnesses and other health concerns.

More African Americans and Latinos, compared to whites, have at least one of seven chronic conditions: asthma, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, or anxiety/ depression.

Some of this is because they don’t get treated quickly or at all, compared to white populations.

Share of Nonelderly Adults Who Did Not Receive Care or Delayed Care in the Past Year by Race/Ethnicity, 2018

Source: KFF

As a healthcare leader, it’s impossible to ignore figures like these.

That’s why it’s imperative for agencies to not only understand health disparities but also develop cultural competence among your team.

What Is Cultural Competence?

For your staff and volunteers, cultural competency is being able to help the people in your community have better access to appropriate healthcare and to have their best possible health. Also it means to do so while working within the context of your clients’ cultural beliefs, behaviors, and needs.

Cultural competency is an essential element that bridges the people in your community and the healthcare system.

COVID-19 & Women's Health: What You Need To Know

In terms of services and care, this might look like:

  • Providing interpreters when necessary
  • Addressing gaps in health literacy
  • Recruiting and training a culturally diverse team
  • Setting up clinics and providers to offer transgender care
  • Providing training to all staff in cultural awareness, knowledge, and skills
  • Collaborating with traditional healers
  • Offering specialized training on LGBTQ+ health issues
  • Hiring and training community health workers
  • Recognizing and applying culture-specific attitudes in health promotion

Note that these practices are both inward facing and outward facing for healthcare agencies. Yes, it’s about having a diverse team, but it’s also about knowing how to talk to a diverse community. You must be fully aware of your organization in order for that to extend to your client community.

Providing Cultural Competency Training

To create a workplace with cultural competence, you’ll need to invest in change, including continued learning, listening, and evolving. Health professionals need to learn how to deliver services with awareness and sensitivity.

Training is a good place to start. Ideally, you’ll have ongoing learning efforts that cover a variety of topics.

Look for or create training programs that cover areas such as …

Health disparities and social determinants of health: Understanding how socioeconomic and sociocultural factors effect clients, patients, and providers.

Implicit bias training for healthcare providers: Explicit bias is obvious. For example, overt racism and prejudice. It’s harmful, but easier to spot. Unconscious bias is more insidious and pervasive, because people don’t recognize it. Training in this topic can help stamp out harmful stereotypes. Implicit bias training is mandatory in many states.

Health literacy: Improving understanding of health information in a context that makes sense for the patient and client.

Eliminating language barriers: Working with medical interpreters, providing language proficiency courses or working with bilingual staff.

Communication skills: Building on language skills to include wider ways of communication among all facets of the healthcare system, including patient, provider, insurance, and administration.

Note that one short course is just a beginning. Cultural competence in healthcare is a process and a way of operating. It pays off to expand your institution’s capacity in cultural competency and diversity. It improves health outcomes, builds community relations, and supports a stronger internal culture.

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