Culture is often described as the combination of a body of knowledge, a body of belief and a body of behavior. It involves a number of elements, including personal identification, language, thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, and institutions that are often specific to ethnic, racial, religious, geographic, or social groups.
For the provider of health information or health care, these elements influence beliefs and belief systems surrounding health, healing, wellness, illness, disease, and delivery of health services.
The concept of cultural respect has a positive effect on patient care delivery by enabling providers to deliver services that are respectful of and responsive to the health beliefs, practices and cultural and linguistic needs of diverse patients.
Why cultural respect is important
Cultural respect is critical to reducing health disparities and improving access to high-quality health care, health care that is respectful of and responsive to the needs of diverse patients. When developed and implemented as a framework, cultural respect enables systems, agencies, and groups of professionals to function effectively to understand the needs of groups accessing health information and health care—or participating in research-in an inclusive partnership where the provider and the user of the information meet on common ground.
Cultural respect benefits consumers, stakeholders, and communities and supports positive health outcomes.
Because a number of elements can influence health communication—including behaviors, language, customs, beliefs, and perspectives—cultural respect is also critical for achieving accuracy in medical research. Poor planning in medical research, planning that does not take into account principles of cultural respect, may yield inaccurate results.
Source: National Institutes of Health: www.nih.gov