Blog: National Partnership for Action
Posted on 9/11/2013 by Pamela Ascon
You are in a foreign country and your child is feeling sick. You rush her to the hospital and want to quickly speak to a doctor. Instead, you are given a long form asking many questions in a complete different language. You ask for help, but no one seems to comprehend your heavy accent.
This is the reality that my family and I encountered when visiting medical facilities for many years. As a child who had recently arrived to America, I attempted to act as a translator between the doctor and my mother with the few vocabulary words that I had learned so far in school. I remember my mother’s face emanating discomfort with her inability to fully express her feelings and concerns.
I now understand that the helpless look on my mother’s face was a true reflection of the challenges consistently encountered by many minority populations.
Some of the most significant barriers between healthcare providers and patients are language and cultural differences, which can play a crucial role in patient health outcome. If patients have a hard time communicating with their healthcare provider, this can lead to errors in diagnosis or treatment. With the ample range of cultures in the United States, patients’ cultural beliefs are of equal importance. If a patient’s belief interferes with their treatment option, the clinician should respectfully accommodate the patient while ensuring that they have a successful health outcome.
In 2050, it is estimated that the minority population will account for almost half of the U.S population [PDF | 283KB], underscoring the necessity of culturally and linguistically appropriate approaches. To inform these approaches, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services has recently released the Enhanced National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in health and health care, also known as the CLAS Standards. This blueprint guides implementation to advance and sustain culturally and linguistically appropriate health services. It also highlights the importance of providing quality and equal health services to minorities.
Currently, CLAS Standards are being utilized to improve operational functions within the workplace by equipping culturally and linguistically competent staff to serve the needs of the populations that they serve. CLAS Standards improve quality of care and patient safety while decreasing the liability risk for health care providers. They will ultimately prepare health and healthcare organizations to meet the needs of minorities while improving health care quality.
Therefore, I encourage health and health care organizations to adopt and implement CLAS Standards. Working as a team, we can narrow the cultural and language gaps within the health care system and eliminate a major barrier to achieving health equity in the nation.
Posted in: Health Minority Populations Promising Practices Health Disparities Federal CLAS Cultural & Linguistic Competency Health Care Minority Health | Comments | Add a Comment | Comment Policy | Permalink
Posted on 7/30/2013 by Larke Nahme Huang, Ph.D.
A visit to the doctor can be daunting enough, but imagine how much more challenging it could be if you couldn’t understand your doctor or if your doctor didn’t take into account your health beliefs or practices? Language and culture are critical factors to consider in providing high quality health care and services, and with the rapidly changing demographics of the nation, cultural and linguistic competency has never been more important.
In April, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health unveiled the enhanced National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care (CLAS Standards), expanding the definition and scope of the first CLAS standards issued in 2000. The CLAS standards are intended to advance health equity, improve quality and help eliminate health care disparities by providing a blueprint for individuals and health and health care organizations to implement culturally and linguistically appropriate services. So what do the CLAS standards mean for behavioral health care systems and practitioners?
Research shows that there are disparities in behavioral health among racial, ethnic, sexual and gender minority populations. A recent report on 2003-2011 data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that Hispanics are more likely than non-Hispanics to have a need for substance use treatment but are less likely to receive treatment at drug or alcohol rehabilitation facilities, hospitals or mental health centers. Combined 2003 to 2011 NSDUH data also indicates that African Americans were less likely than persons of other racial and ethnic groups to need alcohol use treatment in the past year, but more likely to need illicit drug use treatment. Another NSDUH report found that substance use rates were generally higher among American Indian or Alaska Native adolescents compared with national averages. Among individuals admitted for substance abuse treatment, methamphetamines were reported as the primary substance of abuse for three times as many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) than for all other races combined, according to data from the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS). Studies have also shown that minority populations have less access to behavioral health care, receive lower quality care and experience worse outcomes even when they do receive care. Barriers such as stigma, cultural beliefs and limited English proficiency can contribute to these disparities.
Implementing strategies to improve and ensure cultural and linguistic competency in our behavioral health care systems is a powerful way to address these disparities and ensure all populations have equal access to services and supports. Capacity building efforts focused on improving cultural and linguistic competency and incorporating the CLAS standards in systems can elevate awareness; enhance the ability to monitor program access, service use and outcomes; and improve quality as a result. The enhanced standards emphasize the importance of strong leadership and governance and how all members of an organization play a critical role in more fully serving the health care needs of their communities. Practitioners and administrators can participate in training to better understand clients and be responsive to diverse cultural health beliefs and practices, preferred languages, health literacy and other communication needs. At a systems level, some states have taken steps to weave the cultural and linguistic competency into the fabric of their health systems, by passing legislation to implement cultural competency standards.
This National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, I invite you to learn more about the enhanced CLAS standards and think about how you can advance behavioral health equity by incorporating these practices, starting with checking out the Blueprint for extensive explanations of the standards and implementation strategies. You can also find more information about behavioral health disparities and behavioral health resources on SAMHSA’s Office of Behavioral Health Equity website and the National Network to Eliminate Disparities in Behavioral Health website.
Posted in: Health Health Disparities CLAS Cultural & Linguistic Competency Mental Health Minority Health Minority Mental Health Month | Comments | Add a Comment | Comment Policy | Permalink
About the Blog
The NPA works to achieve health equity -- the highest level of health for all people. This blog is a venue for professionals from all fields and sectors to share their thoughts on pressing issues, news and events pertaining to health equity. Follow and participate in this candid discussion.
Recent Blog Posts
→ Black Infant Deaths Point to Flaw in U.S. Health Care System
→ The Native American Perspective on FASD: An Interview with Judge Anita Fineday - November 2014
→ Spotlight on Health Disparities in Native Communities
→ Up in Smoke: Reducing Smoking Rates to End Health Disparities
→ The Intercultural Cancer Council: Alive and Thriving