• Culture and Health Literacy 

    Medical Cultural Awareness

    Medical Cultural Awareness is a set of attitudes, skills, behaviors, and policies that enable organizations and staff to work effectively in cross-cultural situations. It reflects the ability to acquire and use knowledge of the health-related beliefs, attitudes, practices, and communication patterns of clients and their families to improve services, strengthen programs, increase community participation, and close the gaps in health status among diverse population groups. Medical Cultural Awareness also focuses its attention on population-specific issues including: Health-related beliefs and cultural values(the socioeconomic perspective). Disease prevalence (the epidemiological perspective). Treatment efficacy (the outcome perspective).


    Cultural competence can have a real impact on clinical outcomes. Ignoring culture can lead to negative health consequences in many ways: (1) Patients may choose not to seek needed services for fear of being misunderstood or disrespected. (2) Patients may not adhere to medical advice because they do not understand or do not trust the provider. (3) Providers may not order appropriate tests or medical interventions due to cross-cultural misunderstandings.


    Health Literacy 

    Obtaining, communicating, processing, and understanding health information and services are essential steps in making appropriate health decisions; however, research indicates that today's health information is presented in ways that are not usable by most adults."Limited health literacy" occurs when people can't find and use the health information and services they need. Nearly 9 out of 10 adults have difficulty using the everyday health information that is routinely available in our healthcare facilities, retail outlets, media and communities. Without clear information and an understanding of the information's importance, people are more likely to skip necessary medical tests, end up in the emergency room more often, and have a harder time managing chronic diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure.

    We can do much better in designing and presenting health information and services that people can use effectively. We can build our own health literacy skills and help others—community members, health professionals, and anyone else who communicates about health—build their skills too. Every organization involved in health information and services needs its own health literacy plan to improve its organizational practices.



    HCMS Tools 

    • Language Grid - helpful grid for our members' practices to assist with finding physicians by language.
    • Medical Cultural Awareness Tip Sheet - one-page reports for our members that addresses the cultural-specific health issues for African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, and Asian American groups.
    • Communicating with Patients - provides information on working with interpreters and patients with limited English proficiency (LEP).

    Payer Resources

    Below are resources HCMS has found through Payor websites, these will help in caring for Houston's culturally diverse population.

    Additional Resources

    • Cultural Clues - Tip sheet to increase awareness within diverse cultures.
    • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality -  Provides standardized instructions for pills in the following languages: Chinese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese
    • Think Cultural Health - Is a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it is the flagship initiative of the Center for Linguistic and Cultural Competence in Health Care. The goal is to advance health equity at every point of contact through the development and promotion of culturally and linguistically appropriate services.
    • Physician's practical guide to cultural competence - Receive 9 free CME credits to MDs, PAs or 9 contact hours to NPs, while exploring engaging cases and learning about cultural competency in healthcare.
    • The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) - The primary agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services dedicated to improving access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated or medically vulnerable
    • Spanish Language Medication Tracking Tool  - A brochure developed by the AHRQ to help Spanish-speaking patients learn more about how to take medicines safely. The brochure includes a detachable, wallet-size card that patients can personalize to keep track of their medicines, including vitamins and herbal and other dietary supplements