Cultural Competency is Good for Your Health

Article published by Mediaplanet’s Diversity in Healthcare campaign and featured in USA Today’s “Minorities for Minority Healthcare”

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” —That’s a phrase we’ve often heard in reference to business and social endeavors, but it turns out, that phrase is also true when it comes to health. 

As much as we’d love for healthcare to be one-size-fits-all, the reality is that this is not the case – today’s Black community has higher incidences of just about every major disease and condition out there, as well as shorter life spans. 

In order to understand the medical needs of the Black community, a doctor would also have to understand the cultural realities of the Black community. We know, for instance, that most diseases and illnesses can be prevented by adopting a lifestyle that includes a healthy diet and moderate exercise, but our cultural traditions have shown us that soul food in the kitchen and a full tummy is a love language of its own. 

We also know that by reducing stress we can reduce heart disease among other stress-related illnesses, but living in a neighborhood where the unknown is constantly our reality leaves us on edge—24/7.

It’s that understanding that allows doctors the ability to not only assess the medical needs accurately but also relate and adjust healing practices based on the patient. It’s not always as simple as giving a prescription and moving forward. Often, there’s a cultural undoing and retraining that needs to take place.

There’s a lot of mistrust of the healthcare system. That mistrust, combined with contradictory information in the media today, makes it difficult to truly feel in control of your health, and your life. When surveyed on, an overwhelming majority of patients stated, it’s ‘very important,’ to receive health information in a trusted, culturally relevant environment. 

No, not all Black people come from the same background or have the same experiences, but we do have a silent understanding of our shared history and even the silent struggles we don’t readily open up about to our non-Black counterparts. 

Seeing a Black doctor is like walking down the street and receiving that silent head nod from another Black person walking by… it’s an acknowledgment of being seen, heard, and understood— it’s necessary and good for our health.

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