HHS Releases Blueprint to Advance Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the enhanced National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) Standards April 24 in Washington, D.C., updating guidelines that were previously released by the HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH) in 2000. The National CLAS Standards provide a blueprint to help organizations reduce disparities and improve health care quality, while serving our nation’s diverse communities.

From the earliest chapters of the American story, our diversity has defined us, and given us strength. “Out of many, one”: those simple yet powerful words speak to an unshakable faith in the ties that bind us together.

In the face of changing demographics in this country and a health care system undergoing unprecedented transformation, cultural and linguistic competency may just be one of our most powerful levers for advancing health equity and improving care for everyone.

Last week, the Office of Minority Health along with several partners released the new enhanced National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care —also known as the enhanced CLAS Standards. The enhanced CLAS Standards aim to advance health equity, improve quality and help eliminate health disparities by establishing a framework for health and health care organizations to deliver effective, culturally responsive and linguistically appropriate care and services. Accompanying the standards is the Blueprint for Advancing and Sustaining CLAS Policy and Practice, a resource filled with implementation strategies to help organizations develop culturally and linguistically appropriate policies and practices.

We launched the original CLAS Standards in 2000, and now, with the input of experts and advocates from around the country, we have updated the standards to ensure an even stronger platform for equity. The enhanced CLAS Standards are grounded in a broad definition of culture – recognizing that our health beliefs and practices are influenced not only by race, ethnicity and language, but also socioeconomic status, religion, spirituality, disability status, sexual orientation, gender identity and geography. The enhanced standards emphasize governance and accountability – underscoring the need for strong leadership in advancing system-wide change. And they call for participation by a broad array of organizations, recognizing that health equity cannot be achieved unless all institutions and all sectors are at the table.

For too long, too many Americans have struggled to achieve good health because the health care and services that are available to them do not adequately address their needs. Over the years, we have found that one of the most effective approaches to closing these costly gaps is ensuring the provision of culturally and linguistically appropriate care. A growing body of research shows that health outcomes and patient experiences improve when care and services are provided in an environment that is culturally respectful and responsive at every point of contact.

The enhanced National CLAS Standards build on the foundation of the Affordable Care Act, empowering health and health care organizations to participate in the transformation of our nation’s system of care, and better serve our nation’s increasingly diverse communities.

We encourage everyone – from individuals and organizations – to take part by promoting, adopting and implementing the enhanced CLAS Standards. At this time of transformation, we have a remarkable window of opportunity to advance health equity and ensure that all Americans, in all communities, have a chance to live healthy lives.

To learn more, visit the Office of Minority Health’s “Think Cultural Health” website – a resource on cultural and linguistic competency, including free e-learning curricula for health providers.

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This entry was posted in Events in Nursing, Patient Engagement and tagged , , by Heather Swift. Bookmark the permalink.

About Heather Swift

Heather “Swifty” Swift has been Kicking mAss since 1998. At 28 she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer as a recently single mom with two small babies on her hip. After completing treatment with the thought that cancer was in her rear view mirror she worked, locally, as a volunteer for Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance doing community outreach to be certain that no one faced cancer alone. In 2005, she had a secondary diagnosis of breast cancer and tested positive for the BRCA2 mutation, which only amped up her commitment to creating positive change and to becoming a strong and effective advocate for the young adult cancer community. Now, at age 42, Swifty, her partner, Brian, and her two teenage children work together locally, nationally and internationally to advocate for change. Swifty regularly meets with legislators to work towards tangible change in health care, legislation that addresses the needs of cancer patients, care-partners, and families. She works directly with clinicians, medical/nursing students, youth & college students, cancer support organizations and others to educate them about the special needs of young adults living with a cancer diagnosis. Swifty is passionate about providing support by connecting people living with cancer to resources, to other cancer survivors, and to mobilizing and training individuals and groups to find their inner advocate. Swifty currently works with a number of amazing, hand-selected organizations, which provide her with opportunities to educate, to advocate, and to change the conversation about cancer and to work to bring an end to the disease. A few include: LiveSTRONG, mAss Kickers, Imerman Angels, National Breast Cancer Coalition, Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes, Dusty Showers & The Second Basemen, and Stupid Cancer. Swifty is an oncology nursing student in upstate New York, loves time with her family, paddling sports, and peanut butter. She is a Virgo, but not the really anal-retentive type. Her strange fascination with superheroes makes her popular in geek circles, but it can be endearing. Swifty will be riding a llama across Oregon in July of 2012 and really does believe we can achieve and end to cancer and in world peace. Motto: Never Give Up! Favorite quote: “Our own life has to be our message.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh

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