In a world becoming more conscious than ever of our differences from each other, we need to continue to put the care in health care. That means healthcare providers must understand and respect those differences to provide truly equitable health care for all patients.
To move toward health care equity, then, is to proactively establish, reinforce, and maintain policies, practices, attitudes, and actions that produce equitable care, access, opportunities, treatment, impacts, and health outcomes. The first step toward providing equitable care is to develop cultural sensitivity or the ability to deliver culturally relevant care. Toward Health Care Equity: Sensitive Care for a Diverse Patient Population aims to help health care providers learn more about the diverse populations they serve. With learning comes awareness and, hopefully, understanding, respect, sensitivity, and equitable care for every patient.
The purpose of this guide is to provide healthcare professionals with some basic knowledge and awareness about the myriad ways in which their patients are diverse. This guide also encourages healthcare providers to recognize and address their own systemic healthcare biases and to reject assumptions or stereotypes about individuals or groups.
Toward Health Care Equity: Sensitive Care for a Diverse Patient Population builds on the Third Expanded Edition of Cultural and Religious Sensitivity: A Pocket Guide for Health Care Professionals authored by Geri-Ann Galanti and published by Joint Commission Resources in 2018. Indeed, the world has changed tremendously since its publication five years ago, with its heightened awareness of human diversity and healthcare disparities. With that awareness has come a new and/or renewed energy toward healthcare equity. Therefore, this current guide is retitled to focus on the crucial need to move toward healthcare equity, which reflects The Joint Commission's prioritization of this need.
This guide features new content that includes additional ways in which an individual's diversity may affect their health outcomes and interactions with the health care system. In addition to race, ethnicity, religion, and spirituality, this guide also explores how a patient's sexual orientation and gender identification may affect their health outcomes; how age and generation may contribute to beliefs and attitudes about health care; and how individuals with physical, psychological, and developmental differences may feel stigmatized and less likely to seek health care when needed. All these aspects of diversity can profoundly affect an individual's healthcare encounter and subsequent health itself. This guide is intended to educate healthcare professionals and help them provide culturally sensitive care, which refers to the ability to understand and respond effectively to the cultural needs that patients bring to their healthcare encounters.
The Joint Commission is committed to strengthening the connection between equity and quality in health care. To achieve sustainable improvement, we need to approach healthcare equity in the same way The Joint Commission approaches other crucial patient safety priorities by understanding the root causes and implementing targeted standards of care. One of the root causes is a lack of understanding of patient diversity, which we hope this guide helps to mitigate.
Sensitivity related to the cultural needs of diverse patients, including, but not limited to, the following:
"The book addresses a very important topic and contains much useful information."
-- Anna Helm, BS, MPH (Multnomah County) Doody's Review
"Every patient deserves the right to safe, equitable health care. All health care organizations have a responsibility to identify and address the disparities that their unique patient populations face."
-- Jonathan B. Perlin, MD, PhD, President and CEO, The Joint Commission
All healthcare providers, whether they practice in hospitals, local or state health departments, community health clinics, or long-term care facilities should have access to a reference addressing this topic. This book can be used as the basis for developing continuing education courses. It would also be appropriate for students in all healthcare fields at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.