Fight for Your Right: A Guide to Culturally Competent Care

Health care is a human right.

It's a simple theory: The better you're treated by your doctor, the better you'll feel. But when your provider dismisses, shames, or discriminates against you because of your ethnicity or identity, you'll likely resist going back—and that can put your health in jeopardy. Enter culturally competent care: when a health care system provides for patients with diverse values, beliefs, behaviors, culture, and language. It's an approach to health that's mindful of the wider push for inclusion our country is currently grappling with. It also takes in to account the long-standing health disparities between different populations in the US.

As the pandemic revealed, Black, American Indian, and Latinx people are up to 3.1 times more likely than white people to be hospitalized with COVID-19 and up to 2.4 times more likely to die of the virus. Some gaps in health care go beyond race and have to do with what the World Health Organization refers to as social determinants, such as where you live, your level of education, and your economic status. Research shows that people within marginalized communities—higher weight individuals, LGBTQ+ people, and those who identify as BIPOC—are more likely to encounter discrimination at the doctor's office, which prevents them from receiving high-quality care or seeking care at all.

Culturally competent care makes it easier for patients to advocate for themselves. In this guide, you'll discover ways to make yourself more comfortable at the doctor's office, how to find the right care for your needs, and why speaking up can save your life.

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