March 2006 MedBytes: Cultural Competency

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With growing concerns about racial and ethnic disparities in health and about the need for health care systems to accommodate increasingly diverse patient populations, cultural competency has become a matter of national concern. Below is a sample of sites on the World Wide Web that can provide additional information about cultural competency and its implementation in everyday life.

TMF Health Quality Institute
Formerly the Texas Medical Foundation, the TMF Health Quality Institute (TMF) is a private, nonprofit organization of licensed physicians. The organization was founded in the early 1970s with the support of the Texas Medical Association and the Texas Osteopathic Medical Association. It was chartered as an independent organization to promote, develop, define, and encourage the delivery of high-quality medical care and health services to Texas. The organization's site,  www.tmf.org, contains past TMF publications, Medicare beneficiary information resources, private consulting services, information about becoming a TMF member, and recent news releases. The site also has information about the Office of Minority Health's free cross-cultural competency training program.

Texas Department of State Health Services
Log on to  www.dshs.state.tx.us/mhprograms/CulturalCompetencyInitiative.shtm, and you'll find information on the Cultural Competency Initiative begun in 1994 by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). The department is trying to increase cultural competence, to address access issues, and to enhance the health care system's responsiveness in providing culturally appropriate services to people from ethnically diverse backgrounds. The site defines cultural competency and two policies on the responsibilities of state and local health authorities that can be downloaded in PDF formats.

The Office of Minority Health
Established in 1986 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of Minority Health (OMH) works to improve and protect the health of racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of health policies and programs that will eliminate health disparities. The OMH Resource center maintains the OMH site, http://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/ , which serves as an information and referral service on minority health issues for professionals, community groups, consumers, and students. Cultural competency resources include links to organizations and programs; information about policies, laws, and initiatives concerning cultural competency; and training tools for physicians and others.

National  Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC)
The mission of the National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC) is to increase health and mental health programs' ability to design, implement, and evaluate culturally and linguistically competent service delivery systems. The center's site,  http://gucchd.georgetown.edu/nccc , contains an online database with a wide range of resources on cultural and linguistic competence (e.g., demographic information, policies, practices, articles, books, research initiatives and findings, curricula, multimedia materials, and Web sites), as well as tools and processes for self-assessment of cultural competence. NCCC also maintains a pool of consultants who provide training, technical assistance, or consultation related to cultural and linguistic competence in health, mental health, education, and human health services. Additional online resources are also included. The NCCC site can be viewed in Spanish.

National MultiCultural Institute
Founded in 1983, the National MultiCultural Institute (NMCI) is one of the first organizations to recognize the nation's need for new services, knowledge, and skills in multiculturalism and diversity. NMCI's mission is to work with individuals, organizations, and communities to create a society that is strengthened and empowered by its diversity. NMCI's site (www.nmci.org) provides information about its training and consulting programs, training manuals and video, upcoming conferences, and additional multicultural online links.

U.S.Census Bureau
The Census Bureau is the leading source of quality data about the nation's people and economy. The bureau honors privacy, protects confidentiality, shares its expertise globally, and conducts its work openly. Its online site,  www.census.gov, has tools to locate census information, including American FactFinder, which allows site visitors to locate specific data about their community. Also included is information about the bureau's Population Estimates Program, which publishes population numbers between each census and a list of online reports and publications.

MedBytes is a quick look at new, or newly discovered, Web sites of interest toTexas physicians. The column also highlights features of the TMA Web site. If you know of some interesting medical sites or have questions about how to use the TMA Web site, email  Erin Prather. Publication of information about Web sites in this column is not to be considered an endorsement or approval by the Texas Medical Association of the sites or sponsors, or of any products or services involved.  

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