Cultural Competence and Language Access

Cultural competence is the ability of providers and organizations to effectively deliver health care services that meet the social, cultural, and linguistic needs of patients.  A culturally competent health care system can help improve health outcomes and quality of care and can contribute to the elimination of racial and ethnic health disparities. Language barriers, cultural misunderstandings, and low literacy levels are a few factors that contribute to poor health outcomes for many populations. Organizations can address issues related to culture in a number of ways, including:

  • Ensuring services are available in the languages spoken by dominant cultural and ethnic groups
  • Ensuring written material in low literacy levels
  • Employing providers and staff that reflect the diversity of the population served
  • Implement policies and procedures designed to eliminate bias and discrimination 

Training and Technical Assistance 

FACHC Training - What Does It Mean to be Culturally Competent? Participants will understand the relationship between cultural competence, greater health-seeking behavior, and improved health outcomes.


The National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health Care (The National CLAS Standards) Establish a framework to serve the nation's increasingly diverse communities

A Patient-Centered Guide to Implementing Language Access Services in Healthcare Organizations, HHS and Office of Minority Health

A Patient-Centered Guide to Implementing Language Access Services in Healthcare Organizations; U.S. HHS and Office of Minority Health

Language Access: Understanding the Barriers and Challenges in Primary Care Settings; Perspectives from the Field; Association of Clinicians for the Underserved

Example of a Policy and Procedure for Providing Meaningful Communication with Persons with Limited English Proficiency, HHS and Office of Civil Rights

Language Access Plan U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2013

Clinicians’ Obligations to Use Qualified Medical Interpreters When Caring for Patients with Limited English Proficiency American Medical Association, March 2017

The Role of Universal Health Literacy Precautions in Minimizing “Medspeak” and Promoting Shared Decision Making American Medical Association, March 2017

For more information, contact Erin Sologaistoa at