Improved Cultural Competence Promotes Patient Health

June 14, 2011

Cultural sensitivity plays an important role in enhancing the quality of care and improving medical compliance, especially among women in minority and underserved communities. According to a new Committee Opinion recently released by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College), awareness and sensitivity to a patient’s cultural background can improve physician-patient communication and positively affect patient health.

Cultural sensitivity plays an important role in enhancing the quality of care and improving medical compliance, especially among women in minority and underserved communities. According to a new Committee Opinion recently released by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College), awareness and sensitivity to a patient’s cultural background can improve physician-patient communication and positively affect patient health.1,2

Ethnic heritage, nationality, age, religion, sexual orientation, disability, and socioeconomic status are all factors that can contribute to how a woman makes decisions regarding her health. Unfamiliarity with the traditions and values of certain patient populations can lead to confusion, misinterpretation, and low adherence to medical advice, especially when a woman’s culture is at odds with widely accepted medical practices. Physicians who demonstrate cultural competence may foster deeper levels of patient trust and loyalty, which could lead to improved adherence to medications, appointments, and lifestyle change recommendations as well as better health-seeking behaviors and acceptance of preventive services.

“The ability to communicate and connect with patients of different backgrounds and provide quality care that respects their personal values and beliefs is a critical skill for ob-gyns,” said Maureen G. Phipps, MD, chair of The College’s Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women. “Health care should not be one-size-fits-all. When we acknowledge and attempt to understand the cultural identities of our patients, we’re better able to deliver beneficial and individualized care.

References:

References

1. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Cultural sensitivity is key to quality care. Available at: http://www.acog.org/from_home/publications/press_releases/nr04-20-11-2.cfm. Accessed May 15, 2011.
2. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Committee opinion no. 493: cultural sensitivity and awareness in the delivery of health care. Obstet Gynecol. 2011;117:1258-1261.