Cultural competency: providing quality care to diverse populations

Consult Pharm. 2006 Dec;21(12):988-95. doi: 10.4140/tcp.n.2006.988.


Objective: The goal of this paper is to define cultural competence and present a practical framework to address crosscultural challenges that emerge in the clinical encounter, with a particular focus on the issue of nonadherence.

Data source: English-language literature, both primary and reports from various agencies, and the author's personal experiences in clinical practice.

Study selection and data extraction: Relevant literature on patient-centered care and cultural competence.

Data synthesis: There is a growing literature that delineates the impact of sociocultural factors, race, ethnicity, and limited-English proficiency on health and clinical care. The field of cultural competence focuses on addressing these issues. Health care providers need a practical set of tools and skills that will enable them to provide quality care to patients during a brief encounter, whatever differences in background that may exist. Cultural competence has evolved from the gathering of information and making of assumptions about patients on the basis of their sociocultural background to the development of skills to implement the principles of patient-centered care.

Conclusion: This patient-based approach to cross-cultural care consists of first, assessing core cross-cultural issues; second, exploring the meaning of the illness to the patient; third, determining the social context in which the patient lives; and fourth, engaging in negotiation with the patient to encourage adherence. Addressing adherence is a particularly challenging issue, the determinants of which are multifactorial, and the ESFT (explanatory/social/fears/treatment) model--derived from the patient-based approach--is a tool that identifies barriers to adherence and provides strategies to address them. It obviously is impossible to learn everything about every culture and that should not be expected. Instead, we should learn about the communities we care for. More important, we should have a framework that allows us to provide appropriate care for any patient--one that deals with issues of adherence--regardless of the patient's race, ethnicity, or cultural background.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel / ethnology
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Cultural Diversity*
  • Delivery of Health Care* / organization & administration
  • Delivery of Health Care* / standards
  • Patient Compliance / ethnology
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Professional Competence / standards*
  • Quality of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • United States