Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics



SPECIAL SECTION: ILLUMINATING CULTURE, HEALTH, AND ETHICS: BEYOND EQUALITY AND JUSTICE

Cultural Competency at the Community Level: A Strategy for Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities


INDIA J.  ORNELAS  a1
a1 Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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In the United States, healthcare providers, institutions, and society have failed to ensure the conditions necessary for racial and ethnic minority communities to be in good health. Many scholars and federal government officials consider racial and ethnic disparities in health to be an injustice and have called for national attention and strategies to eliminate them. Several of these strategies, including cultural competency, focus on addressing deficiencies within the health care system. Cultural competency is the ability of a healthcare provider to function effectively in the context of cultural differences with the clients they serve. Increasing cultural competency among healthcare providers has been shown to improve the quality of healthcare received by racial and ethnic minorities, which contributes to reducing health disparities. Achieving equity in the quality of healthcare received is a necessary strategy, but is insufficient for eliminating disparities in the health status of racial and ethnic minority populations. A growing body of literature reveals that health disparities are determined, not only by inequities in health care, but by social factors. The implication is that strategies that focus solely on healthcare perpetuate the misconception that health status is determined by access to or quality of healthcare. To eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health status, the fundamental conditions for good health, which include but are not limited to healthcare equity, must be acknowledged and ensured for all people. a



Footnotes

a Special thanks to the editors of this issue, John R. Stone and Erika A. Blacksher, as well Eugenia Eng, Shelley Golden, and Mondi Mason, for their helpful comments.



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