On any given day American doctors’ offices, hospital emergency rooms, and health centers, are alive with the sounds not only of Spanish, but also of Haitian, Creole, Somali, Hmong, Mandarin, Russian, and other languages from across the globe. These languages communicate more than words. They can also reflect experiences, cultures, and belief systems that may not fit neatly into the expectations of the U.S. healthcare system.
This divide, not only in language, but also in culture, belief, and knowledge, contributes to health care disparities in the United States. According to the Institute of Medicine, equity is a core dimension of quality of care. NICHQ calls on healthcare organizations to promote equity by tracking racial/ethnic and socioeconomic group results, by delving deeper to discover why disparities exist, by addressing limited English proficiency, and by focusing on topics most affecting minority and disadvantaged communities.
“The challenge before us is how best to create a healthcare system in which all children receive care that is safe, effective, efficient, timely and family centered, regardless of background or cultural differences.” This statement provided the impetus for NICHQ's guide, supported by the California Endowment, on how to improve cultural competency in children's healthcare. Addressing cultural competency is one key component of the larger effort to address disparities in care.