, Volume 84, Issue 1, pp 53-64

Seven Essential Strategies for Promoting and Sustaining Systemic Cultural Competence

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Racial and ethnic disparities are disturbing facets of the American healthcare system that document the reality of unequal treatment. Research consistently shows that patients of color experience poorer quality of care and health outcomes contributing to increased risks and accelerated mortality rates relative to their white counterparts. While initially conceptualized as an approach for increasing the responsiveness of children’s behavioral health care, cultural competence has been adopted as a key strategy for eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities across the healthcare system. However, cultural competence research and practices largely focus on improving provider competencies, while agency and system level approaches for meeting the service needs of diverse populations are given less attention. In this article we offer seven essential strategies for promoting and sustaining organizational and systemic cultural competence. These strategies are to: (1) Provide executive level support and accountability, (2) Foster patient, community and stakeholder participation and partnerships, (3) Conduct organizational cultural competence assessments, (4) Develop incremental and realistic cultural competence action plans, (5) Ensure linguistic competence, (6) Diversify, develop, and retain a culturally competent workforce, and (7) Develop an agency or system strategy for managing staff and patient grievances. For each strategy we offer several recommendations for implementation.