What is Culturally Competent Health Care?

Did You Know?

  • By 2020, 35% of the American population will consist of ethnic minorities--a number considerably higher than today's 28%
  • Also by 2020, nearly half of all children ages birth to 19 will belong to a racial or ethnic minority group.1

Our increasing diversity means that the medical profession must adjust its methods for providing health care to accommodate patients from many different cultural, social, religious and ethnic backgrounds.

What is cultural and linguistic competence?

There are many ways to define these concepts. For this document, we are utilizing the definition commissioned by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services:

The ability of health care providers and health care organizations to understand and respond effectively to the cultural and linguistic needs brought by the patient to the health care encounter.2

Cultural competence requires organizations and their personnel to:

  • Value diversity.
  • Assess themselves.
  • Manage the dynamics of difference.
  • Acquire and institutionalize cultural knowledge.
  • Adapt to diversity and the cultural contexts of individuals and communities served.

In the health care setting, it is especially important to recognize our cultural differences to improve our ability to interact with one another and to lead to better outcomes.

At Highmark, we recognize the importance of providing health care that is culturally competent. All of our medical directors, clinical staff, and many of our customer service staff have completed cultural competency training. All Highmark employees participate in diversity training. In addition, the physician advisors who participate on the Highmark Clinical Quality Improvement Committees have all completed courses in cultural competence.

To find out more about resources for cultural competency, we have provided the links below:


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1. United States Census Bureau, July 1999
2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health. 2000. Assuring Cultural Competence in Health Care: Recommendations for National Standards and an Outcomes-Focused Research Agenda. http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/assets/pdf/checked/assuring_cultural_competence_in_health_care-1999.pdf
Last updated on 1/11/2018


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