What is Cultural Competence?

Cultural competence is the ability of providers to serve families in a way that honors their cultural beliefs, interpersonal styles, attitudes, and behaviors.  Additionally, cultural competence refers to the participation of multicultural staff in the policy development, administration, and provision of those services.

Why is Cultural Competence Important?

an extended familyThe following points are discussed by the National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC) as compelling reasons for cultural competence:

  1. To be better able to respond to significant increases and projected increases of racially, ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse populations already residing in the United States.
  2. To eliminate long-standing disparities in the health status of people of diverse racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds
  3. To improve the quality of services and health outcomes
  4. To meet legislative, regulatory and accreditation mandates
  5. To gain a competitive edge in the market place
  6. To decrease the likelihood of liability/malpractice claims

How Does Cultural Competence Benefit Families of CYSHCN?

The NCCC describes the connection between health care and cultural competency:

Despite similarities, fundamental differences among people arise from nationality, ethnicity and culture, as well as from family background and individual experience. These differences affect the health beliefs and behaviors of both patients and providers have of each other.
In making a diagnosis, health care providers must understand the beliefs that shape a person's approach to health and illness. Knowledge of customs and healing traditions are indispensable to the design of treatment and interventions. Health care services must be received and accepted to be successful.

Because many CYSHCN require ongoing, longterm healthcare and because families are their children's primary health caregivers, it is critical that providers understand a family's customs and cultures in building a partnership that provides the best possible health outcomes and satisfaction.