Cultural competence

A commitment to equity is central to ensuring quality in health care. Reducing disparities is in everyone’s responsibility. The adaptation of the health care system through widespread access to cultural competence training of health care professionals is key to reducing those disparities. Cultural competence refers to the knowledge, skills and attitudes that facilitate care delivery to patients from diverse social, cultural, economic and linguistic backgrounds.

There is often a limited access to such trainings in the institutions, despite self-identified limitations in knowledge and skills to provide culturally competent care among providers. The main objectives for widespread access to cultural competence trainings are the implementation of a corresponding cultural competence curriculum for medical and nursing students, the reinforcement of specific competencies for physicians, nurses and administrative staff, and the incorporation of cultural competence training into residency programs. The development of new educational tools such as e-learning could increase access at a lower cost.

The syllabus of such trainings may vary but key topics include: addressing language barriers and (health) literacy issues, determining the patient’s social context, exploring the patient’s illness related beliefs and practices, engage in negotiations. A variety of teaching methods may be used, including e-learning, simulated patients and community-based encounters with patient populations.