Improving Cultural Competence in Children's Healthcare


Sunita Mutha, Charlie Homer, Patricia Heinrich, Nicole Reavis, Lsa White, and Bonnie Rains

Jul 2005

On any given day American doctors; offices, hospital emergency rooms, and health centers, are alive with the sounds not only of Spanish, but also of Haitian, Creole, Somali, Hmong, Mandarin, Russian, and other languages from across the globe. These languages communicate more than words. They can also reflect experiences, cultures, and belief systems that may not fit neatly into the expectations of the U.S. health care system.

This divide, not only in language, but also in culture, belief, and knowledge, contributes to health care disparities in the United States. The National Initiative for Children's Healthcare Quality (NICHQ), with its mission of eliminating the gap between what is and what can be in health care for all children, is committed to taking action to eliminate disparities.

The challenge before us is how best to create a health care system in which all children receive care that is safe, effective, efficient, timely and family centered, regardless of background or cultural differences. What practical changes in processes can make health care providers and the systems in which they work more effective in responding to the needs of diverse children? And how can health care delivery organizations track their progress? This report describes our initial efforts to answer these questions, and provides recommendations and findings from early pilot test results.

Funded by the National Initiative for Children's Health Care Quality, this project was chaired by Healthforce Center's Director Sunita Mutha, MD.