Health inequities in our nation are well documented, and the provision of culturally and linguistically appropriate services (CLAS) is one strategy to help eliminate health inequities. By tailoring services to an individual’s culture and language preference, health professionals can help bring about positive health outcomes for diverse populations. The provision of health care services that are respectful of and responsive to the health beliefs, practices and needs of diverse patients can help close the gap in health care outcomes. The pursuit of health equity must remain at the forefront of our efforts; we must always remember that dignity and quality of care are rights of all and not the privileges of a few.
In 2001, the Office of Minority Health published the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health Care (CLAS Standards), which provides the framework for all health care organizations to best serve the nation’s increasingly diverse communities. The CLAS Standards are a collective set of mandates, guidelines, and recommendations intended to inform, guide, and facilitate required and recommended practices related to culturally and linguistically appropriate health services. The CLAS Standards provide guidance on improving quality care under three areas in particular: Culturally Competent Care, Language Access Services and Organizational Supports.
The field of cultural and linguistic competency has seen tremendous growth in the decade since the CLAS Standards’ release. It has evolved from a fledgling concept to a recognized intervention in the quest for health equity. With this in mind, the Office of Minority Health is revisiting the CLAS Standards in order to reflect the past decade’s advancements, expand their scope, and improve their clarity to ensure universal understanding and implementation. The Office of Minority Health will publish the enhanced CLAS Standards in fall 2011.
The enhancement initiative began in fall 2010 with an open call for public comments, three regional public comment meetings, and the convening of a National Project Advisory Committee (NPAC). With this enhancement initiative, the CLAS Standards will continue into the next decade as the cornerstone for advancing health equity through cultural and linguistic competency.
State agencies have embraced the importance of cultural and linguistic competency in the decade since the initial publication of the CLAS Standards. A number of states have proposed or passed legislation pertaining to cultural competency training for one or more segments of their state’s health professionals. At least six states have moved to mandate some form of cultural and linguistic competency for either all or a component of its health care workforce. Access the Legislating CLAS map.