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Cultural Competency Training Program
Recent tragedies such as the September 11th terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, tornadoes, tsunamis, and other disasters have brought to the forefront the topics of disaster preparedness and response. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina illustrated the importance of cross-cultural communication skills in the relief efforts of first responders and disaster personnel in terms of disseminating critical information and instructions, such as evacuation orders or warnings about unclean drinking water. Scientific evidence indicates that minorities suffer disproportionately at every stage of a disaster or emergency.

Racial and ethnic disparities in health pervade the U.S. health care system. The 2008 National Healthcare Disparities Report (NHDR), prepared by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, states that “disparities persist in health care quality and access.” In addition, the 2007 NHDR found that “Overall, disparities in quality and access for minority groups and poor populations have not been reduced since the first NHDR. . . the number of measures on which disparities have gotten significantly worse or have remained unchanged since the first NHDR is higher than the number of measures on which they have gotten significantly better.” The 2002 report from the Institute of Medicine, Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Healthcare, found that minorities receive lower quality health care even when socio-economic and access-related factors are controlled.

In order to equip providers with the cultural and linguistic competence to provide appropriate care to minority communities, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health (OMH) has developed a portfolio of cultural competency training programs tailored for physicians and nurses. These are Web-based training courses offered for free to providers and accredited for continuing education credits. Both programs have enjoyed widespread use and success; to date nearly 50,000 providers have participated in OMH cultural competency training curricula.

OMH has initiated the development of a cultural competency training program for first responders and disaster response/relief personnel to help address the challenges of disparities in the context of emergencies and disasters. This training program will help first responders develop knowledge and skills related to cultural competency education and help reduce racial and ethnic disparities in emergency and disaster response and outcomes.

To access ‘Think Cultural Health’ -- www.ThinkCulturalHealth.org
For additional information, please contact:
Ann S. Kenny, MPH, BSN, RN,
Project Director at Ann_Kenny@sra.com
or 703-502-1119
Guadalupe Pacheco, MSW,
Project Officer at Guadalupe.Pacheco@hhs.gov
or 240-453-6174
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