Think Cultural Health News

Advancing Health Equity at Every Point of Contact

August 2013

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Greetings from the Center for Linguistic and Cultural Competence in Health Care (CLCCHC) at the HHS Office of Minority Health!

It’s been four months since we released the enhanced National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services, and we’ve heard from many of you that the Standards are an important tool in your efforts to promote health equity at every point of contact. Thank you for your dedication to integrating culturally and linguistically appropriate services in your health organizations! We’d also like to invite you to use the National CLAS StandardsThe Blueprint (A Blueprint for Advancing and Sustaining CLAS Policy and Practice), which provides definitions, implementation strategies, and additional resources for each of the 15 Standards.

In this edition of Think Cultural Health News, we will highlight new resources in the field that pertain to the three National CLAS Standards’ themes: Governance, Leadership, and Workforce; Communication and Language Assistance; and Engagement, Continuous Improvement, and Accountability. For more up-to-date resources, please visit the CLAS Clearinghouse at Think Cultural Health.

Theme 1: Governance, Leadership, and Workforce

The National CLAS Standards identify a diverse governance, leadership, and workforce as a key element in the provision of culturally and linguistically appropriate services. The Association of American Medical Colleges, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and DataStar collaborated to develop the Diversity Engagement Survey , which allows health organizations to assess their progress toward creating an inclusive work environment. The survey questionnaire contains 22 items and can be administered to students, faculty, and staff.

In addition, Equity of Care offers a list of resources pertaining to diversity in governance and leadership. Click here to access this webpage.

Theme 2: Communication and Language Assistance

A recent article from The Colorado Trust, Health Equity and Language Access: How Language Access Issues Affect Patients, Policymakers, and Health Care Providers, explores the importance of language access in health care and provides strategies for improving language access. The article also offers several excellent case study examples of health care organizations’ efforts to provide language access services.

Another example of language assistance comes from Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, which recently found that the average discharge time for Spanish-speaking patients was 41 minutes longer than for English-speaking patients. The hospital began stationing Spanish interpreters on each floor during peak discharge hours, instead of having interpreters wait in a central office; this practice reduced the difference in wait time between Spanish-speaking and English-speaking patients to 23 minutes.

"Saving 20 minutes each for 700 discharges a month can make a real difference over time," says Dr. Balkian, chief medical director of inpatient operations. "Improving the timeliness of discharges can help make beds available more quickly and lead to fewer cancelled surgeries."

Theme 3: Engagement, Continuous Improvement, and Accountability

The National CLAS Standards emphasize partnership with the community as an important step in providing responsive and appropriate services and empowering community members to become active participants in the health and health care process. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has released a primer/brief, entitled Improving Health Care Quality and Equity: Considerations for Building Partnerships Between Provider Practices and Community Organizations, which explores how partnerships between provider practices and local organizations can help the former understand local resources and socio-cultural preferences. The primer also details ways in which providers can gain patients’ and families’ trust, and serve as a referral service for much-needed supports.

The National CLAS Standards also highlight the importance of collecting and maintaining demographic data. This help organizations identify population groups within a service area and monitor individual needs, access, utilization, quality of care, and outcome patterns. A project called Cincinnati Expecting Success aims to help hospitals throughout Greater Cincinnati better serve all patients, regardless of race, ethnicity, or language preference. Nineteen hospitals reviewed, revised, and aligned their information technology systems with a standardized process to collect race, ethnicity, and language data. The white paper available on the website summarizes the process, lessons learned, and other insights.

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