Cultural Competency Amidst COVID-19
Cultural competency is a powerful tool for developing immediate trust amongst such communities so that the healthcare information is dispersed with ease and interventions become more effective.
By Dr. Abubakr Yosufi
Disasters particularly pandemics, deteriorate and exacerbate: social, economic and healthcare
circumstances. They increase the vulnerability in various groups by affecting them physically, financially and psychologically. Likewise COVID-19 pandemic is impacting populations disproportionately. Elderly & young; underprivileged communities, racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants and asylum seekers, individuals with a low level of language proficiency are more vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic.
These high vulnerability groups might become suspicious which also might lead them towards not
trusting the authorities and healthcare systems, therefore they might with-hold or not provide accurate information which may result in their discontinuing the treatments.
In addition to this, other vulnerable groups such as those with different cultures or languages (including individuals with low level language proficiency) may end up in misunderstandings, or medical errors leading to overall less effective treatment. Therefore to assure the availability proper usage of appropriate services and reduction of the occurrence of medical problems, culturally competent care services are required to be vastly utilized.
Cultural competency is a powerful tool for developing immediate trust amongst such communities so that the healthcare information is dispersed with ease and interventions become more effective. The concept encompasses empathy, curiosity, and respect for all aspects that shape a patient’s life experience such as age, language, gender, economic status, values, and norms, etc.
Empathy, curiosity, and respect are also called the tenets of cross-cultural communication that are
aimed to cultivate strong relationships amongst the patients; providers that helps to counteract fears and encourage safe behaviors during the pandemic.
The first tenet of cultural competence or cross cultural communication is empathy that aims to show a patient that you care about them and that you take regard what they are going through. This can be achieved by actively listening to their problems, understanding their language or by effective use of body language to make them understand accordingly.
The second tenet of cultural competence is curiosity. Curiosity shows a patient that you want to know what they went through, the difficulties they are facing as of now and the challenges they faced during the pandemic, simply by asking them direct questions that do not interfere in their personal space.
The third tenet of cultural competence is respect. It means respecting them by not being judgmental, even when they are not following medically based treatment and prevention advice.
(Note: Embedding the tenets of cultural competence requires language proficiency. If the patient lacks language proficiency, an interpreter is required.)
Culturally competent approach is the need of these times as it takes into account the social values,
rules and norms that are considered to reduce health risks, misunderstandings, and social disparities in healthcare, promote community resilience, and facilitates social cohesion, most prominently now, stuck in this COVID-19 pandemic.
About the author-
Dr Abubakr Yosufi is a student at Kabul University of medical sciences, Kabul, Afghanistan