Beyond Cultural Competence: Cultural Humility, Cultural Safety, and Recommendations for Better Communication

April 25, 2022

// By Ndome Yvonne Essoka //

Ndome Yvonne EssokaThe “Three C’s of Health Equity” aim to enhance providers’ knowledge about the cultures or groups usually defined by racial/ethnic or sexual minority groups. Safety and humility are key.

In recent times, buzzwords like “cultural competence,” “cultural humility,” and “cultural safety” have grown in popularity and become rooted into the framework and structure of health care systems and medical schools in the United States. Each phrase draws us closer to the ultimate goal of achieving health equity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), health equity will be achieved when every person has the opportunity to “attain his or her full health potential and is not disadvantaged from achieving their potential because of socially determined circumstances.”

But health equity cannot be achieved without acknowledging and understanding the root causes — the systemic differences in the health status of different population groups that can be wide and varied. Health inequities are reflected in differences in longevity, rates of disease, access to treatment, and mortality. Racial and ethnic disparities exacerbate these inequities despite efforts to improve and develop health strategies to reduce them.

As hospitals and health systems grapple with the realities of health inequities and simultaneously strive to adopt health equity learning strategies, culturally appropriate communication is essential.

Cultural competence is a good start, but it’s only the beginning. Here, we’ll share the “Three C’s of Health Equity.” These concepts are — or should be — the foundation of effective communication strategies that can move us toward the goal of eliminating health inequities.


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