By the ForHealth Consulting™ at UMass Chan Medical School Cultural Diversity Committee
Please note: We will be modeling our language under the guidance of recent scientific literature and National Minority Health Month web communications.1,2 However, we recognize that the term “minority” is not often preferred by the populations being described.3
“Better Health through Better Understanding,” the theme of April’s National Minority Health Month, is all about improving the health of underrepresented communities.
By 2050, it is estimated that 50% of the US population will consist of racial and ethnic minority groups, but the healthcare system has profound discrepancies.4 “Unfortunately, racial and ethnic disparities continue to be well-documented and enduring problems afflicting the contemporary [U.S.] healthcare system.”5
It’s important to recognize and address the disparities in healthcare experienced by historically racial and ethnic marginalized communities across the country. Many underrepresented communities continue to suffer from unequal access to and poorer quality of healthcare, and higher rates of illness and death. An approach to improving the health of underrepresented communities is through enhanced resources and culturally and linguistically appropriate services (CLAS).
CLAS is about respect and responsiveness: “Respect the whole individual and respond to the individual’s health needs and preferences.”6 The guiding principle for this approach is to provide effective, equitable, understandable, and quality care and services that are responsive to diverse cultural health beliefs and practices, preferred languages, health literacy, and other communication needs. It is about the holistic patient approach,6 also understood as whole person health.7
Addressing these disparities means meeting people where they are and where they feel comfortable receiving care, increasing their health education and literacy, and addressing specific health considerations that impact these respective groups. Healthcare providers and plans should provide appropriate translation services and other accommodations (i.e., language translation, Braille, assistive devices, assistance with completing complex benefit forms, etc.) to ensure adequate and effective communication of care needs, benefits, and services. Outreach efforts via patient surveys or interviews for their perceived health and social needs are an opportunity to identify current and emerging focus areas and gaps in care.
Grounded in our vision, mission, values, and core principles, ForHealth Consulting at UMass Chan Medical School is committed to diversity and inclusion in every aspect of what we do. This means internally, in our partnerships, in how we measure outcomes and define successes, and in designing research and analysis protocol, aiming for better healthcare experiences and respect for everyone.
We affirm this commitment as we recognize National Minority Health Month, while also realizing what we still need to accomplish together in the pursuit of health equity. To do this, we must:
- Confront the systemic racism, discrimination, and prejudices that have long been embedded in our healthcare system.
- Formulate policies and practices that ensure equitable access to care and resources that help communities stay healthy and thrive.
- Listen to the voices of underrepresented communities and work together to develop solutions that are tailored to their unique needs.
- Commit to embracing diversity and supporting the health of all individuals.
Together, we can create a healthcare system that is effective, equitable, and accessible for all.8