The Case for Cultural Competence - Pharmaceutical Executive

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The Case for Cultural Competence


Medical Education Meetings


How can increased multicultural education build loyalty to brands?

Gutierrez: CME activities are associated less with brands than with corporations. However, historically, the African-American and Hispanic communities are very loyal and will support those groups or companies that focus on them, care about their interests, and provide support. It stands to reason that those companies associated with any type of assistance that leads to better care for African Americans or Hispanics will gain that group's loyalty.

What is missing in the current medical education field that needs to be addressed right away?

Gutierrez: What is lacking can be termed "cultural competence" for healthcare professionals and "healthcare competence" for underserved groups. We need to improve communication between the clinician and the patient, and build healthcare awareness and competency among patients. We need to create tools that will help eliminate errors in the system and make sure that physicians understand how their patients should be treated, and that patients understand why they need a particular treatment. In other words, we need to (1) educate physicians about the medical differences affecting diverse populations, (2) appreciate the vast array of cultural and ethnic differences, and (3) identify potential differences and perspectives between provider and patient.

A recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine addresses cultural education and underscores the urgent need to quickly change the current pattern. In turn, cultural competence will lead to better quality of care, especially for ethnic and minority populations.

Are there long-term strategies? Or are there simple changes that planners can make for their next med ed meeting?

Gutierrez: Both. Some simple changes that can make a difference include recognizing that every CME educational opportunity has a racial/ethnic issue that needs to be addressed, and we can at least identify opportunities and incorporate them into all existing programs. Be geographically sensitive about where you do the education. Create a site for downloading tools that are applicable to all languages and ethnic groups. Develop public awareness campaigns targeting specific groups, such as raising awareness about the incidence of diabetes among Hispanics, addressing the tremendous HIV epidemic among Latinas, and so many others.

In terms of long-term strategies, there are several that come to mind: Race and ethnic populations need to be included in clinical trials; well-recognized and well-regarded Web sites that provide downloadable tools to address the needs of ethnic or minority populations need to be developed. And we need to ensure that all states mandate some level of cultural education through CME education. These are some long-term strategies that we need to embark on.


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