Cultural Competence and Language Access

Cultural competence is the ability of providers and organizations to effectively deliver health care services that meet the social, cultural, and linguistic needs of patients.  A culturally competent health care system can help improve health outcomes and quality of care and can contribute to the elimination of racial and ethnic health disparities. Language barriers, cultural misunderstandings, and low English language literacy levels are a few factors that contribute to poor health outcomes for many populations. Organizations can address issues related to culture in a number of ways, including:
  • Ensuring services are available in the languages spoken by dominant cultural and ethnic groups
  • Ensuring written material in low English language literacy levels
  • Employing providers and staff that reflect the diversity of the population served
  • Implement policies and procedures designed to eliminate bias and discrimination 

Cultural Competence and Language Access Training and Technical Assistance 

Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit, U.S. Agency for Health Research and Quality (AHRQ)


Cultural Competence and Language Access Resources

How Health Providers Meet Patient Language Needs: Highlights of a Medscape Provider Survey CMS, September 2017
Cultivating Cultural Competence AHRQ CAHPS Ambulatory Care Improvement Guide
The National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health Care (The National CLAS Standards) Establish a framework to serve the nation's increasingly diverse communities
A Patient-Centered Guide to Implementing Language Access Services in Healthcare Organizations; U.S. HHS and Office of Minority Health
Language Access: Understanding the Barriers and Challenges in Primary Care Settings; Perspectives from the Field; Association of Clinicians for the Underserved
Example of a Policy and Procedure for Providing Meaningful Communication with Persons with Limited English Proficiency, HHS and Office of Civil Rights
Language Access Plan U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2013
Clinicians’ Obligations to Use Qualified Medical Interpreters When Caring for Patients with Limited English Proficiency American Medical Association, March 2017
The Role of Universal Health Literacy Precautions in Minimizing “Medspeak” and Promoting Shared Decision Making American Medical Association, March 2017


FQHC Patient Resources


For more information, contact Erin Sologaistoa at Erin@fachc.org