New Mexico, Other States Implementing Legislation To Ensure Culturally Competent Care
New Mexico is among a "handful of states that are legislating culturally competent care" to ensure that health care providers receive appropriate training, the AP/Las Cruces Sun-News reports. According to the AP/Sun-News, the way a physician enters a room and greets and communicates with patients can be viewed differently by different cultures. For example, prolonged eye contact with an American Indian patient, particularly an elder, might be considered invasive, but it is encouraged with black patients. Avoiding eye contact with an Asian-American patient might be viewed as a sign of respect, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, which has published a guide for culturally competent care.
In 2007, New Mexico passed a law requiring health education curriculums at universities to provide training that addresses such cultural differences. A task force was developed to create the curriculum, and it is holding regional meetings around the state to seek input on the material. William Flores, chair of the task force, said the goal is to implement the curriculum by 2010, with the task force serving as an oversight committee.
New Jersey and California already have similar laws, and New Jersey also tracks providers' compliance with the law. Flores said, "We don't expect that a provider is going to know everything about every nationality," adding, "The critical thing here is developing sensitivity and the understanding that not every culture responds to medical providers in the same way, sees medicine in the same way" (Fonseca, AP/Las Cruces Sun-News, 8/6).