Key Terms

Cultural competency

Cultural competency is “the ability of systems to provide care to patients with diverse values, beliefs and behaviors.” It includes “the tailoring of healthcare delivery to meet patients’ social, cultural and linguistic needs. A culturally competent healthcare system is one that acknowledges the importance of culture, incorporates the assessment of cross-cultural relations, recognizes the potential impact of cultural differences, expands cultural knowledge and adapts services to meet culturally unique needs. Ultimately, cultural competency is recognized as an essential means of reducing racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare.” (American Hospital Association)

Health equity

Health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. This requires removing obstacles to health; such as poverty, discrimination and their consequences, including powerlessness and lack of access to good jobs with fair pay; quality education and housing; safe environments and healthcare. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 2017)

Equity is the absence of avoidable, unfair or remediable differences among groups of people, whether those groups are defined socially, economically, demographically or geographically or by other means of stratification.

Health equity or equity in health implies that, ideally, everyone should have a fair opportunity to attain their full health potential and that no one should be disadvantaged from achieving this potential. (World Health Organization)

Health disparity

Health disparities are preventable differences in the degree of disease, injury or lack of physical or mental health that different groups of people experience due to their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, education, income level or geographic location.

Unconscious bias

Unconscious biases are mental associations without awareness, intention or control. These often conflict with our conscious attitudes, behaviors and intentions. (Cook Ross)

Recommended reading

  • Unequal Treatment, Institute of Medicine
  • Crossing the Quality Chasm, Institute of Medicine and Committee on Quality Health Care in America
  • Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the National Academies 2018 Consensus Report