Minority populations historically have experienced greater difficulty accessing timely, quality health care services, which has led to persistent health disparities. While recent reports show some progress in reducing disparities, there is still much work to be done. This is especially critical as the U.S. population rapidly diversifies: the U.S. Census Bureau projects the proportion of minorities will grow to nearly half of all Americans by 2050.
The American Hospital Association, Association of American Medical Colleges, American College of Healthcare Executives, Catholic Health Association of the United States and National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems recently issued a call to action to eliminate disparities. While the groups recognize that multiple societal factors contribute to inequities, they note that health care leaders have a great opportunity to reduce disparities using three core elements: increasing the collection and use of race, ethnicity and language preference data; increasing cultural competency training; and increasing diversity in governance and leadership. The groups created a website, www.equityofcare.org, through which they will share resources, best practices and national collaborative efforts.
One such resource, "Building a Culturally Competent Organization: The Quest for Equity in Health Care" produced by the Health Research & Educational Trust in conjunction with the AHA's Institute for Diversity in Health Management, explores how hospitals and health systems can increase their cultural competency to ensure delivery of care that is respectful of all patients' diverse values, beliefs and behaviors.
The guide offers seven recommendations for improving cultural competency. It also includes self-assessments, a list of cultural competency resources and case studies from high-performing hospitals. The report can be accessed at www.hret.org/quality/projects/cultural-competency.shtml.
Please take the time to review the guide. While eliminating disparities in care will not be achieved overnight, dramatic strides can, and have, been made. Trustee leadership is key.
Penny Brooke (Penny.Brooke@nurs.utah.edu) is COG chair and a trustee of Intermountain Health Care Central Urban Region in Salt Lake City.