Cultural Awareness and Sensitivity in Health Care Delivery

Patients’ care and communication is very critical in the delivery of a quality health care to the patients. Health care providers therefore need to keep in close communication touch with their patients in order to improve the quality of health service delivery to benefits all parties. The first step towards improving the quality of the healthcare is bridging of the cultural divide between medical practice and cultural practices and beliefs that would be essential in making the patients develop value for health care systems. These practices and beliefs may be founded on nationality, age, religion, ethnic heritage, disability, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status of the patient (Fleming & Towey, 2001). The main aim of every health care encounter is to positively impact on the health of the patient.

To maximize on the impact of healthcare, care providers should learn more about the patients’ cultures and beliefs in order to enhance their understanding of their clients. Obstetrician–gynecologists for instance, often meet cultural issues in every aspect of care including office, labor suite, and preoperative encounters (Wells, 2010). In-depth understanding of patients’ culturally and health related behavior would be essential in improving patients’ care and communication. For instance, when a patient’s culture and belief is at odd with the prevailing medication provisions, the patient’s cultural belief often prevail, hence straining the relationship between the patient and the health provider. To minimize such differences, it is important for the physicians and health providers to enhance their awareness and understanding of the diverse cultural differences of the patients they serve (Srivastava, 2007). Besides, healthcare providers must be open minded and educate themselves on the cultural beliefs of the environment where they serve.

Culture refers to the multidimensional and dynamic aspects of patients’ lives that cover gender, faith, profession, tastes, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, disability, and socioeconomic status of the patients. Cultural competency or sensitivity refers to “the knowledge and interpersonal skills that allow providers to understand, appreciate, and work with individuals from cultures other than their own. It involves an awareness and acceptance of cultural differences, self-awareness, knowledge of a patient’s culture, and adaptation of skills” (Lincoln & Kirkham, 2010). Many cultural groups that form the minority often receive little medical care yet they are the most deserving groups in the society. One of the reasons why such marginalized groups receive little medical covers is cultural insensitivity and incompetence of the health providers.

For decades, the U.S has been successful in cultural competence by training the medical team and healthcare providers on the need to develop cultural understanding of the patients. This has made it possible to incorporate diverse cultural groups and immigrants into healthcare system. Between 2000 to 2009, U.S attracted people from all corners of the world following its cultural sensitivity. During this period, Asian population increased by 32%, Indians – 18%, Hispanic -37%, and African-Americans – 13%. Currently, the minority groups are the majority in the United States because of the cultural diversity and sensitivity in all sectors including healthcare.

Native Origin Population increase (%)
Asian 32
Indians 18
Hispanic 37
African-Americans 13
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