Healthcare has always formed a fundamental aspect of any nation. In
fact, the economic health of any nation can be determined by examining
the healthcare sector. Unfortunately, many countries are unable to
provide comprehensive healthcare to their citizens. Of course, there are
varied reasons for this in different countries, but for the United
States, one of the most fundamental reasons has been the cultural
disparity. Research has shown that the healthcare sector, as it is
today, was formed with the majority races and cultures in mind, in which
case the minorities have always felt as if they are left out (Welch,
1997). This has bred calls and advocacy for cultural competency. There
have been calls that the US government should financially subsidize
efforts to create a more culturally competent health care system. It
goes without saying that giving these financial subsidies are some of
the best things that ever happened to the healthcare sector.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services defines
cultural competency as incorporating the attitudes, policies and
behaviors that would safeguard diverse interaction once placed on
continuum. Scholars have also defined it as the consistency of
attitudes, policies and behaviors that are combined in an organization
or system to operate in cross-cultural environments (Welch, 1997). The
advantages of financially subsidizing efforts to create a more
culturally competent healthcare system revolve around its effects.
First, cultural competence in the healthcare sector is seen as one of
the strategies that would be effective in enhancing healthcare provision
especially among the racial minorities. As stated, a large part of the
healthcare infrastructure in the United States was developed before the
civil rights era, in which case it propagated institutionalized
prejudice against minorities (Welch, 1997). This is the same for modern
healthcare systems, whose design was mainly considering the majority
population. Financial subsidization of culturally competent healthcare
would allow for the incorporation of the needs, beliefs and unique
understanding of minorities in healthcare theby enhancing healthcare
provision (Saha et al, 2003).
As much as research is still being carried out, early results show that
cultural competence has direct effects on high quality outcomes. For
example, there is a high possibility for the occurrence of basic
diagnostic errors in case of language barriers between the patient and
the physician. In addition, the interaction between the doctor and the
patient cannot be fully successful in cases where the patient is
uncomfortable. The discomfort may be emanating from the physical
gestures, tone, gender and age, among other behaviors that are
significant to certain cultures but meaningless to the American culture
(Saha et al, 2003). Medical services are formulated around common
cultural experiences affecting the caregiver-patient interaction. It is
worth noting that the interaction would be significantly impeded in
cases where the caregiver and the patient are from different cultures.
There is a correlation between cultural competence and provision of
quality healthcare (Saha et al, 2003). This means that the provision of
the best nursing care is a fundamental aspect of being culturally
competent. It is worth noting that cultural competence occurs in
instances where nurses and caregivers know the meaning of illness and
health to the patients within the context of their culture (Carrasquillo
et al, 1999). Caregivers have to develop interpersonal and academic
skills that would enhance their comprehension, as well as appreciation
of the culturally diverse patients. Scholars acknowledge that caring for
patients underlines working with them at a personal level. In essence,
their cultural beliefs pertaining to pain, ailments, family, death and
birth have to be considered in the provision of healthcare (Carrasquillo
et al, 1999). This would only be attained through enhancing cultural
competence among healthcare providers, which is what the subsidies would
Volumes of literature have cited the variations in demographics as the
key reason why cultural competence has to be enhanced in the healthcare
sector. People from numerous and varied cultures have been immigrating
into the United States of America at an increasing rate, with people
living even longer than they used to do. A recent census in the United
States showed that ethnic and racial minority populations have been
increasing at a rate faster than that of the white populations.
Unfortunately, there is not a commensurate number of nurses who
understand the cultural aspects of these minorities. This is especially
considering that the nursing structures were more inclined towards the
whites rather than the minorities. In addition, there is a considerably
low number of nurses from minority groups. This means that the provision
of healthcare to the ever-increasing minority populations is
considerably compromised. The situation can only be salvaged through
enhancing cultural competence in the healthcare sector, which is why the
financial subsidies would be beneficial to the health of the nation at
Moreover, patients who visit healthcare institutions that are
specifically designed to provide care that is customized to suit their
needs are known to undergo better experience than those who do not.
Cultural competence offers a way of delivering maximum care. It is worth
noting that enhanced satisfaction emanating from cultural competence
also extends to healthcare workers from minority races too (Brach &
Fraser, 2000). Recent times have seen an increasing shortage of
qualified employees, especially healthcare workers. Needless to say,
this shortage has adverse effects on the provision of healthcare
services in the entire country. This demands that employers do
everything possible to recruit, as well as retain their qualified staff
in a diverse and increasingly competitive labor pool (Brach & Fraser,
2000). Scholars have stated that committing to culturally competent
healthcare is an effective strategy for showing that the organization
respects diversity in the workforce, which would allow it to attract and
retain the much needed, qualified staff (Brach & Fraser, 2000). This
underlines the importance of financially subsidizing cultural competence
in the healthcare system.
Welch M. (1997) Culturally competent care for diverse populations.
Bethesda (MD): Health Resources and Services Administration (US), Bureau
of Primary Health Care.
Carrasquillo, O., Orav, E. J., Brennan, T. A., & Burstin, H. R. (1999).
Impact of language barriers on patient satisfaction in an emergency
department. Journal of General Internal Medicine
Saha, S., Arbelaez, J. J., & Cooper, L. A. (2003). Patient-physician
relationships and racial disparities in the quality of health care.
American Journal of Public Health
Brach, C. & Fraser, I. (2000). Can cultural competency reduce racial and
ethnic health disparities? A review and conceptual model. Medical Care
Research and Review, 57 (Supplement 1)