Trans Am Clin Climatol Assoc. 1995 ; 107(): 226-35; discussion 236-7.
Cultural competence--an essential hybrid for delivering high quality care in the 1990's and beyond.
Institute on Aging, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104, USA.
Establishing guidelines for culturally competent medical care will help all physicians to fulfill their mandate to meet the health care needs of the individual patient as well as of patient populations, and to lower costs by encouraging a healing partnership with the patient, thus increasing patient responsibility for his or her own health. Being culturally sensitive is not enough. Nor is simply classifying patients according to race adequate. Many researchers in social science and health services increasingly agree that race in our heterogeneous U.S. population has limited biological meaning and more often than not is just a poor proxy for culture or socioeconomic status. Guidelines and quality indicators that seek to measure and improve cultural competence must take into account, in an integrated fashion, these three necessary components in the delivery of high-quality services to populations: 1) the health-related cultural factors; 2) the incidence and prevalence of diseases in the population; and 3) treatment outcomes peculiar to that population. To be culturally competent is to incorporate and integrate these critical factors into caring for diverse populations. If health care systems, individually and collectively, are to provide care of high quality that is cost-effective to all populations, researchers and funders of research must invest in an aggressive agenda that pursues two directions: the validation of existing quality indicators in minority populations, and the development of new quality indicators that assess the organization's ability to develop culturally competent care. Only in this way will those of us in the medical profession be able to fulfill our calling to relieve suffering without discriminating against some populations.