What is Cultural Competency?



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"...the knowledge and interpersonal skills that allow providers to understand, appreciate, and work with individuals from cultures other than their own. It involves an awareness and acceptance of cultural differences, self-awareness, knowledge of the patient’s culture, and adaptation of skills."
-American Medical Association, Delivering Culturally Effective Health Care to Adolescents (1994) PDF Document

"...the ongoing capacity of healthcare systems, organizations, and professionals to provide for diverse patient populations high-quality care that is safe, patient-friendly and family-centered, evidence based, and equitable. - Cultural Competency:  An Organizational Strategy for High-Performing Delivery Systems” National Quality Forum Issue Brief, April 2009 Issue Brief PDF Document

Learn more about cultural competency issues and training opportunities...

Four Guiding Principles: Cultural Competency

  • Equity - equal access to quality care
  • Is necessary, but not sufficient, to achieving an equitable healthcare system.
  • Is an ongoing process with assessments and interventions at the system, organizational, group, community, and individual levels.
  • Requires organizational commitment with a systems approach (addresses organizational and clinical aspects while managing diversity and needs of diverse workforce, community, and patient population)

Measurement and Reporting  
Successfully integrating cultural competency into the public health system includes:

  • Leadership
  • Integration into Management Systems and Operations
  • Patient-Provider Communication
  • Care Delivery and Supporting Mechanisms
  • Workforce Diversity and Training
  • Community Engagement
  • Data Collection, Public Accountability, Quality Improvement


-“Cultural Competency:  An Organizational Strategy for High-Performing Delivery Systems” National Quality Forum Issue Brief, April 2009

Health Literacy:  Essential Tool for Culturally Competent Services
Nearly half of all adults (90 million) in the United States have trouble understanding and acting on health information.  In evaluating materials delivered to the general public and specific population groups, it is essential to understand how information is most effectively conveyed. 
Health literacy represents the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate oral health decisions.

Read more resources for health promotion, education, and healthcare professionals . . .