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Loyola University Chicago Libraries

Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing

Diversity, Cultural Competence & Health Disparities

Why is Cultural Competence important?

Cultural competency is one the main ingredients in closing the disparities gap in health care. It’s the way patients and doctors can come together and talk about health concerns without cultural differences hindering the conversation, but enhancing it. Quite simply, health care services that are respectful of and responsive to the health beliefs, practices and cultural and linguistic needs of diverse patients can help bring about positive health outcomes.

Culture and language may influence:

  • health, healing, and wellness belief systems;
  • how illness, disease, and their causes are perceived; both by the patient/consumer and
  • the behaviors of patients/consumers who are seeking health care and their attitudes toward health care providers;
  • as well as the delivery of services by the provider who looks at the world through his or her own limited set of values, which can compromise access for patients from other cultures.

The increasing population growth of racial and ethnic communities and linguistic groups, each with its own cultural traits and health profiles, presents a challenge to the health care delivery service industry in this country. The provider and the patient each bring their individual learned patterns of language and culture to the health care experience which must be transcended to achieve equal access and quality health care.