Educating clinicians about cultural competence and disparities in health and health care

J Contin Educ Health Prof. Summer 2011;31(3):196-206. doi: 10.1002/chp.20127.


An extensive body of literature has documented significant racial and ethnic disparities in health and health care. Cultural competency interventions, including the training of physicians and other health care professionals, have been proposed as a key strategy for helping to reduce these disparities. The continuing medical education (CME) profession can play an important role in addressing this need by improving the quality and assessing the outcomes of multicultural education programs. This article provides an overview of health care policy, legislative, accreditation, and professional initiatives relating to these subjects. The status of CME offerings on cultural competence/disparities is reviewed, with examples provided of available curricular resources and online courses. Critiques of cultural competence training and selected studies of its effectiveness are discussed. The need for the CME profession to become more culturally competent in its development, implementation, and evaluation of education programs is examined. Future challenges and opportunities are described, and a call for leadership and action is issued.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cultural Competency / education*
  • Education, Medical, Continuing / organization & administration*
  • Ethnicity
  • Health Policy
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Healthcare Disparities / ethnology*
  • Humans
  • Racial Groups
  • United States