Cultural Respect

What is Cultural Respect?

Culture is often described as the combination of a body of knowledge, a body of belief and a body of behavior. It involves a number of elements, including personal identification, language, thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, and institutions that are often specific to ethnic, racial, religious, geographic, or social groups. For the provider of health information or health care, these elements influence beliefs and belief systems surrounding health, healing, wellness, illness, disease, and delivery of health services. The concept of cultural respect has a positive effect on patient care delivery by enabling providers to deliver services that are respectful of and responsive to the health beliefs, practices and cultural and linguistic needs of diverse patients.

Questions and Answers

Why is cultural respect important?

Cultural respect is critical to reducing health disparities and improving access to high-quality health care, health care that is respectful of and responsive to the needs of diverse patients. When developed and implemented as a framework, cultural respect enables systems, agencies, and groups of professionals to function effectively to understand the needs of groups accessing health information and health care—or participating in research-in an inclusive partnership where the provider and the user of the information meet on common ground.

What is NIH doing to promote cultural respect?

The NIH recognizes the challenge presented by the health care needs of a growing number of diverse racial and ethnic communities and linguistic groups, each with its own cultural traits and health challenges. The NIH recognizes the need to apply research advances in such a way as to ensure improved health for all Americans. Current efforts through NIH research and that done by other groups and agencies contribute to identifying further potential links between reductions in health disparities and appropriate delivery of health information and health care. NIH communications offices develop and disseminate resources they have designed with communities and using public engagement norms.

Can cultural respect make a difference?

Cultural respect benefits consumers, stakeholders, and communities and supports positive health outcomes.

Because a number of elements can influence health communication—including behaviors, language, customs, beliefs, and perspectives—cultural respect is also critical for achieving accuracy in medical research. Poor planning in medical research, planning that does take into account principles of cultural respect, may yield inaccurate results.

What are the National CLAS Standards?

The National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care (the National CLAS Standards) are intended to advance health equity, improve quality, and help eliminate health care disparities by providing a blueprint for individuals and health and health care organizations to implement culturally and linguistically appropriate services. Adoption of these Standards will help advance better health and health care in the United States.

List of the National CLAS Standards

Principal Standard:

  1. Provide effective, equitable, understandable, and respectful quality care and services that are responsive to diverse cultural health beliefs and practices, preferred languages, health literacy, and other communication needs.

Governance, Leadership and Workforce:

  1. Advance and sustain organizational governance and leadership that promotes CLAS and health equity through policy, practices, and allocated resources.
  2. Recruit, promote, and support a culturally and linguistically diverse governance, leadership, and workforce that are responsive to the population in the service area.
  3. Educate and train governance, leadership, and workforce in culturally and linguistically appropriate policies and practices on an ongoing basis.

Communication and Language Assistance:

  1. Offer language assistance to individuals who have limited English proficiency and/or other communication needs, at no cost to them, to facilitate timely access to all health care and services.
  2. Inform all individuals of the availability of language assistance services clearly and in their preferred language, verbally and in writing.
  3. Ensure the competence of individuals providing language assistance, recognizing that the use of untrained individuals and/or minors as interpreters should be avoided.
  4. Provide easy-to-understand print and multimedia materials and signage in the languages commonly used by the populations in the service area.

Engagement, Continuous Improvement, and Accountability:

  1. Establish culturally and linguistically appropriate goals, policies, and management accountability, and infuse them throughout the organization's planning and operations.
  2. Conduct ongoing assessments of the organization's CLAS-related activities and integrate CLAS-related measures into measurement and continuous quality improvement activities.
  3. Collect and maintain accurate and reliable demographic data to monitor and evaluate the impact of CLAS on health equity and outcomes and to inform service delivery.
  4. Conduct regular assessments of community health assets and needs and use the results to plan and implement services that respond to the cultural and linguistic diversity of populations in the service area.
  5. Partner with the community to design, implement, and evaluate policies, practices, and services to ensure cultural and linguistic appropriateness.
  6. Create conflict and grievance resolution processes that are culturally and linguistically appropriate to identify, prevent, and resolve conflicts or complaints.
  7. Communicate the organization's progress in implementing and sustaining CLAS to all stakeholders, constituents, and the general public.

See the National CLAS Standards Fact Sheet for more information.

Where can I learn more about cultural respect?

This page last reviewed on July 13, 2016