The Immigrant and First-Gen Subcommittee would like to share the following piece written by member Aliza Lopez to address the need for cultural competency in healthcare.
Aware of your urgent need for medical treatment, yet experiencing the unyielding feeling of not feeling understood when seeking support. This frustration barricades your ability to receive urgent care. This scenario is a reality encountered by an alarming fraction of immigrants; it is a consequence of cultural and language barriers that are frequently overlooked by medical practitioners. The inability to approach a patient can potentially instill the idea that they are alone, they are undeserving of treatment, etc. Taking their unfulfilled needs into account, this can become a starting point of declining mental health in the immigrants’ healthcare sector. The need for cultural competence increasingly targeted towards those who have recently immigrated, can be a line between the fulfillment of a patient’s needs and the extent to which they are achieved. This term essentially refers to “[tailoring]” healthcare delivery to “patients’ social, cultural, and linguistic needs” (Husson University, 2019). Meeting various cultures in the mental health care industry is merely a requisite in the accessibility of such resources, though adapting to these individualized needs are critical in these interactions. Promoting fair wellness and medical treatment for all populations is not based on a single “objective” approach, just as medicine is not based on a standard treatment. The administration of treatment by understanding the patient matters. In nations with a predominant immigrant population, notably the United States, it is apt to implement the appropriate, culturally mindful services. Whether it is by understanding the circumstances that the immigrant has been raised in, professional proficiency in their native tongue, and mentally simulating how they can receive proper treatment based on their expression, cultural competency is critical and ethical.
Associated benefits can range from combating “unconscious and conscious medical bias, variations in medical care and quality, and low health literacy, according to the global healthcare company Cigna” (Husson University, 2019). How is the system failing to meet these benefits, which can contribute to poor mental and physical health? Unconscious medical bias is exhibited through culturally incompetent practices by simply failing to ensure fair treatment for all patients. For instance, stereotyping is common if a provider only fulfills the medical needs of a patient they can linguistically understand, as touched upon; this is evident if an immigrant patient does not receive proper care due to lack of comprehension. In other cases besides the language barrier, practitioners should be cognizant of immigrants with diverse beliefs, and even behaviors, in order to sufficiently manage administrations of treatment -- how they receive treatment can be crucial in ensuring the most ethical health status.
The added efforts in incorporating an equitable, culturally respectable healthcare system for immigrants outlines additional advantages, in addition to the correct interpretation of their needs and an improved mental health state. For the clinic itself, a number of business-related factors are gained, such as “enhancing the efficiency of care services, increasing the market share of the organization… and incorporating different perspectives, ideas, and strategies into the decision making process” (Husson University, 2019). From a health-related standpoint, “care disparities” can be further bridged, supported by the reduced likelihood of errors in medical visits and treatments. In general, medical professionals’ cultural competence can foster an environment of trust, security, and a mutual positive connection with their patient and community.