Research Looks Into Whether Cultural Differences Play Role in Health Disparities
A "growing amount of research" is examining whether small cultural differences play a significant role in health care disparities across the U.S., USA Today reports. Although, new government-sponsored studies are being conducted to determine if cultural training can help health care personnel and physicians relate better to minority patients, "no study has proven cultural competency training works, either by improving doctor-patient relationships, increasing patient compliance or reducing disparities," according to USA Today.
Ramon Jimenez, chair of the diversity advisory board at the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, said that analysis of the issue is the first step in finding a solution to the problem. "Cultural competency will have to be on everybody's radar screen for generations to come," Jimenez said, adding, "When the day comes that the melting pot is truly a melting pot, then we won't need this, but that day isn't here yet." Jimenez noted that physicians need time to learn how to interact with different patients under different circumstances.
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons about six years ago developed a guidebook and DVD for physicians that addresses issues relating to culturally competent care for black, Asian-American, American Indian and Hispanic groups, women and religions. However, Tony Rankin, the first black president-elect of the academy, said the guidebook is not an exhaustive source for physicians seeking to deal with every patient. The guidebook included the disclaimer: "Never assume that an individual who comes from an ethnic culture shares the traits of that ethnicity or culture." In addition, New Jersey has made cultural-competence education a requirement for physicians seeking state licenses, and California has called for physician training courses to include cultural competence and linguistic training (Buchanan, USA Today, 2/14).