Cultural Competence and Unique Concerns in Patients With Ethnic Skin

April 2012 | Volume 11 | Issue 4 | Original Article | 460 | Copyright © April 2012


The projections of increases in the number of skin of color patients over the next several decades, necessitates expertise in cultural competence for health care providers. Acquiring competency begins with practitioners reflecting on their self identity and personal beliefs. Additionally, understanding African-American cultural habits and practices and their impact on disease is critically important. We review, in this article, the fundamentals of becoming cultural competent. Patients are best served when their physician embraces their culture, their view of the health care system as well as habits and practices.

J Drugs Dermatol. 2012;11(4):460-465.


Integral to the history of the United States, past and present, is the rich diversity of its inhabitants and the customs, beliefs, and viewpoints that they bring to this nation. Beginning with the Native Americans who were joined by the British in Jamestown, Pilgrims in Plymouth, Puritans in Boston, Quakers in Pennsylvania, and later blacks from the African continent, and Latinos from the Caribbean and Mexico, America was and still remains a melting pot. That is, people of different cultures, ethnicities, and races have come together to not just coexist but to also thrive. All of our inhabitants will require health care and, at some point, will interact with health care providers. In the United States, as diverse populations increase, it behooves health care providers to become more sensitive to the unique concerns of these inhabitants and identify how to best serve these individuals. Understanding the tenants of cultural competence, which includes providing services that are respectful of and responsive to the health beliefs, practices, and cultural and linguistic needs of diverse patient populations, is critically important.1By becoming culturally competent, the health care provider will achieve a combination of knowledge, clinical skills, and behaviors that lead to positive outcomes for patient care with these culturally diverse populations.
In the face of a health care delivery setting that increasingly pressures providers to see more patients and thus limits encounter time, one must ask if it is important or even feasible to provide multi-culturally competent health care? In fact, we think that through attempts to understand or acknowledge patients' cultural beliefs and background, not only is better care provided, but in many cases may result in easier, more seamless delivery.
What is the first step in providing cultural competent health care? The physician or health care provider must begin by understanding his or her own multicultural identity. Careful consideration of the following questions will serve to achieve this goal.
table 1