Think Cultural Health News

Advancing Health Equity at Every Point of Contact

May 2013

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SPECIAL National CLAS Standards EDITION!


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

Welcome to the National CLAS Standards edition of Think Cultural Health News! On Wednesday, April 24, the enhanced National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care were released in a series of exciting events in Washington, D.C.:

As we look ahead, we are counting on your continued collaboration to implement culturally and linguistically appropriate services across the country! Please share your thoughts, suggestions, and personal experiences related to CLAS with us at

If you are receiving Think Cultural Health News for the first time, we encourage you to Join the CLCCHC at Think Cultural Health so that you may continue to receive this e-newsletter to stay informed about the latest news on culturally and linguistically appropriate services.

The Blueprint: Guidance and Implementation Strategies for the Standards

The enhanced National CLAS Standards are intended to advance health equity, improve quality, and help eliminate health care disparities by establishing a blueprint for organizations to deliver effective, understandable, and respectful services at every point of patient contact. A Blueprint for Advancing and Sustaining CLAS Policy and Practice or simply, (The Blueprint) is a new guidance document for the National CLAS Standards available exclusively at! The Blueprint describes each Standard's purpose and components. In addition, it provides basic strategies for implementation and a list of resources that provide additional information and guidance.

In order to access The Blueprint, we ask that you answer a few questions about yourself. Some may wonder, why do I need to answer questions to view The Blueprint?

We decided to ask all individuals accessing The Blueprint a few simple questions about themselves and their organizations, so that we can understand more about who is accessing and using The Blueprint. By asking these few questions, we can ultimately understand how the National CLAS Standards are being used and how to ensure their continued usability in the future.

We have all asked, or been asked, what is the evidence to support cultural and linguistic competency? When the Enhancement Initiative began in 2010, many of you asked who had implemented the original Standards successfully and what important lessons were learned. Although anecdotal accounts and personal stories abound, the field is still gathering empirical data on the benefits of providing culturally and linguistically appropriate services and implementing the National CLAS Standards.

The questions we ask individuals to answer before accessing The Blueprint will provide us with the data and additional information necessary to connect with organizations interested in helping us develop the evidence base of cultural and linguistic competency. Thus, we will be better positioned to answer critical questions about the Standards and their effectiveness, in the future.

What's New in the Enhanced National CLAS Standards?

The enhanced National CLAS Standards have a broad reach to address the importance of cultural and linguistic competency at every point of contact throughout the health care and health services continuum. The Standards are grounded in the following concepts:

  • Culture is the integrated pattern of thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, and institutions associated, wholly or partially, with racial, ethnic, or linguistic groups, as well as with religious, spiritual, biological, geographical, or sociological characteristics.
  • Health encompasses many aspects, including physical, mental, social, and spiritual well-being, recognizing that how individuals experience health and define their well-being is greatly informed by their cultural identity.
  • The target audiences are health and health care organizations to acknowledge those working not only in health care delivery facilities (e.g., hospitals, clinics, community health centers) but also in organizations that provide services such as behavioral and mental health, public health, emergency services, and community health and prevention. The Standards are intended for use within all areas of health and human services.
  • The intended recipients of CLAS are patients, consumers, clients, recipients, families, caregivers, and communities.

Given this conceptual foundation, the enhanced National CLAS Standards are structured as follows:

  • Principal Standard (Standard 1): Provide effective, equitable, understandable, and respectful quality care and services that are responsive to diverse cultural health beliefs and practices, preferred languages, health literacy, and other communication needs.
  • Governance, Leadership, and Workforce (Standards 2-4)
  • Communication and Language Assistance (Standards 5-8)
  • Engagement, Continuous Improvement, and Accountability (Standards 9-15)

What Are We Up To?

We invite you to participate in the following events. Please click on the links to find out more information and register for the events.

Have an event you'd like to share with the TCH team and other members of the CLCCHC? Submit the event to our Community Calendar.