New Site for Cultural Competence

As more data comes to light confirming the negative effects on health outcomes in ethnic minority patients, the need to promote culturally competent care has become more important.

As more data and evidence comes to light confirming the negative effects on health outcomes in racial and ethnic minority patients due to disparities in access to care, bias, and a variety of other factors, the need to promote culturally competent care has become more important. With several states passing or considering legislation mandating that physicians meet some minimum requirement for cultural competence training each year, online courses that provide effective and convenient continuing education opportunities are especially appealing to physicians.

In response to demand for quality educational initiatives, the University of Alabama School of Medicine recently launched Cultural Competence Online for Medical Practice (CCOMP), an online cultural competence e-learning resource.

Visitors to the CCOMP website can access a free, case-format CME program funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and designed to improve physicians’ knowledge, attitudes, and skills, and teach “effective cross-cultural approaches to care for African-American patients with cardiovascular disease, especially hypertension.”

The “Patients’ Perspective” section notes that increasing practitioners’ awareness of patients’ cultural background, including their customs, beliefs, values, and social support, can improve communication and help “create a therapeutic alliance” that can promote treatment adherence and lead to better outcomes.

A central theme of this section is the effects (both positive and negative) of patients’ religion and spirituality on their views of medical care and how they cope with illness. Key messages are underscored by brief videos of patients discussing how their faith shaped how they coped with illness. The course notes that “epidemiological studies suggest that religion has beneficial associations with hypertension and cardiovascular disease” and that “people with religious beliefs have lower blood pressure and cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality.”

The “About Providers” section focuses on the ways in which “clinicians’ stereotyping, bias, and prejudice may contribute to disparities in the quality of care received by minorities.” Participants are asked to consider the case of “Mr. Jackson,” a 78-year-old African American man with uncontrolled hypertension, and exam how bias and stereotyping can potentially lead a physician to jump to conclusions and make false assumptions that can negatively affect diagnoses and medical decisions.

The course also offers information and resources that prompt physicians to consider their patients' perceptions of hypertension and the cultural factors that can affect their decisions regarding treatment and adherence. Links to additional online cultural competence educational resources allow further study and learning.