Hospitals Increase Culturally Competent Care Among Minorities With Diabetes

Armen Hareyan's picture

Medical professionals across the nation are "beginning to bone up" onculturally competent health care, in particular with diabetes, "giventhe rising incidence of the disease, its prevalence among minoritygroups, and the changes in diet and lifestyle that treatment oftenentails," the Wall Street Journal reports.

InNew York City, nearly 50% of Asian-Americans have diabetes orpre-diabetes and about one-third of blacks and Hispanics have one ofthe conditions, compared with roughly 30% of whites. According to the Journal,the 50,000 diabetes patients at the city's 11 public hospitals speak"scores of languages" and are accustomed to "varied cuisines." Areahospitals have begun to tailor treatment and educational materials tominority populations, including making print information available inseveral languages, providing on-site cooking classes that focus onethnic-specific recipes and offering a range of translation services.The public hospital's electronic health record system is the "backbone"of the city's effort, the Journal reports. It allowsproviders to track clinical indicators, check when patients are due forcertain exams and alert patients to missed appointments in their nativelanguages.


Many of the efforts are not directly reimbursed by the government or private insurers, according to the Journal.The New York City public hospital system estimates that it spends about$10 million annually on cultural competency efforts and an additional$50 million to $60 million on health care information technology.

Similarefforts are occurring in other cities. A Massachusetts hospital offersa computerized diabetes registry that tracks Haitian and Hispanicpatients; a San Diego center offers healthy cooking classes forHispanics and Filipino and Vietnamese immigrants; and California, NewJersey and New Mexico are requiring health professionals and medicalstudents to receive some form of cultural competency training.

Alan Aviles, president of the New York City Health and Hospital Corporation,said that over time, the efforts will save money by preventing theonset of chronic diseases. He added, "It doesn't take too many(averted) cardiac surgeries before you have the money needed to start ademonstration kitchen."

Jeannette South-Paul, chair of the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Family Medicine,said the goal of cultural competency is not to provide different careto patients based on their ethnicity and religion but rather to makehealth care more accessible to individuals of various backgrounds."It's imperative that you get this information across to patients andhelp them treat these ailments, because they result in increasedmortality," she said, adding, "If you can be creative in how youapproach that population, that is good" (Francis, Wall Street Journal, 10/23).

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