Cultural Competence

Despite notable progress in the overall health of Americans, there are continuing disparities in health status among African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders, compared to the U.S. population as a whole. In addition, the health care system is becoming more challenged as the population becomes more ethnically diverse. Therefore, the future health of the U.S. population as a whole will be influenced substantially by improvements in the health of racial and ethnic minorities.

Cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and economic differences impact how individuals and groups access and use health, education, and social services. They can also present barriers to effective education and health care interventions. This is especially true when health educators or health care practitioners stereotype, misinterpret, make faulty assumptions, or otherwise mishandle their encounters with individuals and groups viewed as different in terms of their backgrounds and experiences. The demand for culturally competent health care in the United States is a direct result of the failure of the health care system to provide adequate care to all segments of the population.

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