Cultural Competency and the CLAS Standards

Marian Ryan, PhD, MA, MPH, CHES

Marian Ryan, PhD, MA, MPH, CHES

Marian Ryan began the session with a discussion on defining culture and cultural competence.  She said individuals view the world through a cultural lens and different thoughts and experiences are perceived differently depending on their culture.   She went on to explain that culture is dynamic and “many of us can evolve if we are open to it”.  She explained cultural competence as the ability to “communicate effectively with people that are different than ourselves” and stressed the importance of recognizing “cultural-based practices that dictate or organize us”.

Dr. Ryan commented that cultural competence is important to consider due to the changing of demographics in the US, the impact it can have on the sustainability of a business, and the critical role it plays in healthcare. The socio-cultural background of our clients can also have a large impact on individual members’ health values, beliefs, behaviors, quality of care and health outcomes.

Dr. Ryan stressed on the importance of understanding health disparities and the individuals that are directly impacted by these inequities, such as those with mental illness or low literacy rates.  Providing culturally competent cross-cultural care is key to combating these inequities and she provided effective frameworks that can be used to facilitate cross-cultural communication, such as the LEARN and BATHE models. She concluded with an explanation of the federal mandates that exist to address cultural competency, such as the CLAS Standards, ADA requirements and NCQA MultiCultural Standards.