Growing up as a Black man in this country has been… interesting. Although my parents provided for me and I was fortunate enough to get an education, the differences between how minorities and White people are treated in this country were always apparent, from education to job opportunities—and, notably, in health care and health equity.
In 2002, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued an important report, “Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care.” It contained results of a study showing not only that racial and ethnic minorities in the United States are less likely to receive routine medical care, but that they also experience a lower quality of health services in general. This difference ultimately results in greater health disparities and worse health outcomes for minority populations.
The IOM’s study, and others, highlighted the need to raise awareness and improve the approach to health care in all settings. Sixteen years later, are things better? They might be, but not enough
. Culturally and linguistically appropriate care is crucial for bridging these persistent gaps.
As National Minority Health Month comes to an end, NCQA wants you to know about our efforts to reduce disparities in America. One is our Multicultural Health Care Distinction award, which recognizes providers that meet our standards for culturally and linguistically appropriate services (CLAS)—services that increase access to quality health care for minorities with language or cultural barriers.
NCQA’s Multicultural Health Care Distinction was introduced in 2010.
The program evaluates the effectiveness of an organization’s product, product line or program based on five sets of criteria:
- Collection of ethnic and language data.
- Availability of language services.
- Cultural responsiveness of practitioner networks.
- Consistent improvement of CLAS programs.
- Reduction of health care disparities.
The minority population is getting larger: Ethnic minorities are projected to be 56% of the U.S. population by 2060, with one person in five being foreign born by 2050. Perhaps by then, we’ll be able to ensure that “diversity” doesn’t have to mean “disparity.”