Bridging the Gap: Cultural Competency in Healthcare
Updated: Feb 4
An obstacle for healthcare providers is finding a way to provide adequate healthcare services to minority groups.
In the current COVID-19 pandemic, these disparities in minority healthcare continue to exist.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, racial and ethnic minorities are more vulnerable to COVID-19. One strategy proposed by CDC to combat this is to emphasize the importance of culture in addressing the health crises; described as a “shared strength,” culture, seen through foundations such as family, faith, and cultural establishments, can be used to empower and encourage members of the community to take action for their health as well as reduce the stress associated with the virus.
These disparities extend into the avenue of mental health. One article notes the unique trauma faced by African Americans as a result of COVID-19. To summarize, inequity in healthcare services contributes to trauma faced by minority groups. Studies have also shown that minority groups continue to face obstacles in receiving mental health services. According to this article, the quality of mental health services, (which often fail to account for cultural biases as well as stigma), as well as the poor accessibility of these services continue to perpetuate these disparities within minority communities.
That poses the question: How can providers bridge this gap to ensure that minority groups are able to access quality healthcare services?
The National Institutes of Health, emphasizes the importance of cultural respect.
Cultural respect is defined as this amalgam of knowledge pertaining to “bodies of belief, knowledge, and behavior” specific to social groups, (religious, ethnic, etc). By educating healthcare providers with these essential skillsets, providers will be a step closer to improving healthcare services, impacting this inequity in outcomes, seen in minority groups.
To quote an interesting segment on an article I stumbled across on the BBC website, “What we can learn from ‘untranslatable’ illnesses,”:
“In the book “Crazy Like Us”, the author Ethan Watters describes how we’ve spent the last few decades slowly, insidiously Americanising mental illness – shoehorning the colourful array of emotional and psychological experiences that exist into a few approved boxes, such as anxiety and depression – and “homogenising the way the world goes mad”.
In the process, not only do we risk missing out on diagnoses and foregoing the most appropriate treatments, but the opportunity to understand how mental illnesses develop in the first place.”
This raises the important issue of cultural differences in the manifestation of disorders. Normal is relative; what may be perceived as normal in one culture may not be in another culture and vice versa.
In order to move a step closer to addressing these disparities, providers should be cognizant of these differences, seeing the symptoms from the appropriate lens as opposed to trying to force them into a static, pre-existing model.
Ayana is committed to addressing the lack of engagement between minorities and the mental health industry which arises as a result of cost, stigma, and lack of cultural competency. We achieve this by matching users with licensed professionals that share their unique traits, values, and sensibilities.