Cultural Diversity & Competence

Healthcare professionals are ethically and professionally obliged to provide the best possible care that supports the health and well-being of all patients irrespective of their personal identities and characteristics.

Patients and healthcare providers are more likely today and in the future than at any time in the past to bring to the clinical encounter a wide cross-cultural array of clinically relevant needs, attitudes, customs, values, beliefs, preferences, assumptions, expectations, practices, and fears that decode experiences, shape perspectives, affect decisions and drive behavior.1

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Optometrists and optometry students must understand how diversity influences care and affects outcomes to achieve everyone's optimum vision and eye health.

A preponderance of scientific evidence supports the importance of increasing racial and ethnic diversity among healthcare professionals. This evidence demonstrates that greater diversity among health professionals is associated with improved access to care for racial and ethnic minority patients, greater patient choice and satisfaction, better patient–provider communication, and better educational experiences for all students in training.2

Understanding The Hispanic Population

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The Census Bureau estimates there were roughly 63.7 million Hispanics in the U.S. as of 2022, a new high. They represent up to 19% of the nation's population,3 and according to the U.S. Census Bureau projections, Latinos are expected to be 21% by 2030.4 By 2040, one of every four Americans will be of Latin-American culture.3

The Census defines Latinos as people descended from Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Central/South American, or other Spanish cultures. Mexican Americans represent almost two-thirds of Hispanics.

According to the National Eye Institute, the Latino population has some of the highest rates of eye disease and visual impairment caused by eye diseases, such as diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma, and a significant number may be unaware of their eye disease.

Eyecare professionals who want to serve Hispanics and grow their practices must become culturally competent. 

Cultural competence is defined as the ability of providers and organizations to effectively deliver health care services that meet the social, cultural, and linguistic needs of patients.5

Cultural competence implies developing the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that allow us to understand, become aware of, and adapt our care to the patient's needs and expectations. The purpose is to reduce healthcare disparities that arise from cultural barriers, improving outcomes and the patient's sense of receiving empathic care. 6

What makes a particular provider, practice, or protocol culturally competent? While there is plenty of speculation on the topic, answers to these questions are far from being settled.

You can learn more about cultural competency through these resources:

Videos

Cultural Diversity In Eye Care: Creating bonds with culturally diverse patients

This 2007 video has short lectures and vignettes of optometrists as they examine patients of different cultural backgrounds. It is an excellent tool for healthcare professionals and students on the fundamentals of cultural competence. The presentation has sections on African-Americans, Hispanic -American (starts at 33:04), Asian-Americans, and Muslim-Americans. Sponsored by the Vision Care Institute LLC and filmed at SECO International 2007.

Cultural Competency in Eyecare

The Transitions Diversity Advisory Board was originally formed in 2010 to help guide the company’s multicultural initiatives and further strengthen its ability to help eyecare professionals provide culturally and linguistically appropriate vision care to a diverse patient base.  In this video, Transitions Diversity Advisory Board members share tips to help eye care professionals create a welcoming environment for a diverse patient base.

References