Why Does It Matter

Here are some examples of how culturally competent care can make a difference:

  • A Spanish-speaking patient may avoid an accidental overdose if care providers are alert to the fact the word “once”—as in, “take this medication once a day”—can be mistaken for the Spanish word “once,” meaning the number 11.
  • If a Latina with diabetes is advised on how to create an appropriate diet with foods that are familiar to her, instead of being expected to eat a wide range of new foods, she may be more likely to manage her disease effectively.
  • A non-English-speaking patient with heart disease who receives help from an interpreter—and so gets a good understanding of how exercise affects his health—may be more inclined to adhere to an exercise regimen.
  • If an elderly Chinese man with congestive heart failure feels his religious beliefs have been integrated into his treatment plan, he may be better at taking his medication and be less likely to have to visit the emergency department.

Sources: Monica Villalta, Diversity director, Mid-Atlantic States; National Diversity Office; Nilda Chong, MD, Ph.D., MPH, “A Model for the Nation’s Health Care Industry: Kaiser Permanente’s Institute for Culturally Competent Care,” The Permanente Journal,  Summer 2002, Vol. 6

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