Public Health Emergency - Leading a Nation Prepared
The racial and ethnic diversity of the United States population is increasing, necessitating an inclusive and integrated approach to disaster preparedness, response, and recovery activities. This approach ensures that culturally and linguistically diverse populations are not overlooked or misunderstood, and receive appropriate services as needed.
The National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care (CLAS Standards), issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health (OMH), offer individuals working in the areas of emergency management, public health, and other health-related organizations a framework for developing and implementing culturally and linguistically competent policies, programs, and services. Cultural competency is defined as “the ability of individuals and systems to respond respectfully and effectively to people of all cultures, classes, races, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and faiths or religions in a manner that recognizes, affirms, and values the worth of individuals, families, tribes, and communities, and protects and preserves the dignity of each.1
Developing cultural and linguistic competency allows public health officials and emergency managers to better meet the needs of diverse populations and to improve the quality of services and health outcomes during and after a disaster. To be effective, however, cultural and linguistic competency must be included in all phases of a disaster or public health emergency – preparedness, response, and recovery.
Five Elements of Cultural Competency within Disaster Preparedness
Example: Not all cultures react to pain in the same way. While the experience of pain is universal, the way of perceiving, expressing, and controlling pain is one of these learned behaviors, that when manifested, is culture-specific.2 An example of cultural competency is a public health official’s and an emergency manager’s self-awareness of expectations associated with how an individual expresses pain or stress.
R – Build rapportE – Explain your purposeS – Identify services & elaborateP – Encourage individuals to be proactiveO – Offer assistance for individuals to identify their needsN – Negotiate what is normal to help identify needsD – Determine next steps
Example: Research illustrates that racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately vulnerable to, and impacted by, disasters.5,6,7 Minority communities also recover more slowly after disasters because they are more likely to experience cultural barriers and receive inaccurate or incomplete information as a result of cultural differences or language barriers.
Need more information? OMH’s Think Cultural Health initiative provides resources pertinent to emergency management and the provision of culturally and linguistically appropriate services. The Health Care Language Services Implementation Guide and the Cultural Competency Curriculum for Disaster Preparedness and Crisis Response provide valuable tools for the implementation of language access services as well as skill-building for public health and emergency managers when working with interpreters and translation organizations.
1 National Technical Assistance and Evaluation Center. Cultural Competency. Child Welfare Information Gateway, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2009. Accessed 12 March 2015.
2 Good MJD, Brodwin PE, Good BJ, Kleinman A, editors. Pain as a Human Experience: An Anthropological Perspective. Berkley: University of California Press; 1992.
3 Rasmussen, Tina. The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) Trainer’s Sourcebook on Diversity. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1995.
4 For more information about the RESPOND tool, review the Cultural Competency Curriculum for Disaster Preparedness and Crisis Response.
5 Davidson, TM, Price M, McCauley JL, Ruggiero KJ, Disaster Impact Across Cultural Groups: Comparison of Whites, African Americans, and Latinos. American Journal of Community Psychology. 2013;52(1-2):97-105.
6 Bethel, JW, Burke, SC, Britt, AF. Disparity in disaster preparedness between racial/ethnic groups. Disaster Health. 2013;1(2):110-16.
7 Collins, TW, Jimenez AM, Grineski SE. Hispanic Health Disparities After a Flood Disaster: Results of a Population-Based Survey of Individuals Experiencing Home Site Damage in El Paso (Texas, USA). Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health. 2013;15(2):415-26.
8 For more information about the triadic interview, review the Cultural Competency Curriculum for Disaster Preparedness and Crisis Response.
Home | Contact Us | Accessibility | Privacy Policies | Disclaimer | HHS Viewers & Players | HHS Plain Language | Vulnerability Disclosure Policy
Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), 200 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20201
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services | USA.gov |
HealthCare.gov in Other Languages