A Blueprint for Cultural and Linguistic Equality in Health Care

May 8, 2015 |

By Sarah-Claire Jordan

Medical interpreters These days, it’s very difficult to deny the inequality prevalent in our society. From employers discriminating against job applicants based on their names or photos to African Americans being more likely to be pulled over by police, social inequality has become so ingrained in the psyche of our society that many people don’t even notice it anymore. One aspect of daily life that a lot of people may not associate with social inequality is health and healthcare. There are many reasons that one person may receive better care than another, ranging from economic class to race, but one thing that can be done to try to level the playing ground is to provide the appropriate services to those with different cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

The main idea behind the National Standards for CLAS (Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services) in Health and Health Care is basically to implement the proper tools and policies to ensure that everyone gets the best health care possible regardless of what culture they come from or what language they speak. The blueprint for these standards was first developed in 2000 and has since been modified to meet the needs of the American people. There are fifteen standards total, starting with the Principal Standard, with the rest falling under three themes. The Principal Standard essentially summarizes the mission statement of the blueprint, which is, as mentioned earlier, to make sure everyone gets the care they deserve regardless of certain cultural and linguistic differences.

Standards 2 to 4 fall under Theme 1, which is “Governance, Leadership, and Workforce.” The standards under this theme are all related to ensuring that everyone involved in any health or health care related organization is aware of the standards and has the tools necessary to implement them. The idea is to be as thorough as possible and not leave out a single individual, no matter their role in the organization. Standards under Theme 1 promote CLAS education and training of individuals within an organization as well.

Theme 2, “Communication and Language Assistance,” covers everything regarding what organizations would need to do in order to provide patients with the communication and linguistic assistance they need to receive proper care. This is one of the most important aspects of the blueprint, as a large portion of the population does not speak English as their first language. Those who are limited in their English must be informed, in their native language, that language assistance is available at no charge. Language assistance means more than just working with interpreters. It means providing important written and multimedia materials in the most common languages in the area. Standard 7 emphasizes the importance of hiring professionals for language assistance services, so that false friends like “intoxicado” and “intoxicated” don’t cause problems when it comes to a proper diagnosis.

The last seven standards fall under the umbrella of “Engagement, Continuous Improvement, and Accountability.” They are meant to promote exactly what their theme says, through establishing goals, conducting assessments of the implementation of the standards, and more. Standard 11 pushes for the collection and maintenance of demographic records, which makes sense as communities are always growing and changing both culturally and linguistically. Another standard worth mentioning is Standard 13, which pushes for health and health care organizations to work with their community to make sure all services, practices, and policies are appropriate based on the cultural and linguistic diversity of the community.

With these standards as a blueprint, health and health care organizations are now able to provide more equitable care to everyone in their communities.

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Category: Business Translation

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