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July 17, 2009

Cultural Compentence in Medicine

NYTimes.com has an article posted that speaks to the need for cultural competence in medicine to reduce health disparities and improve outcomes.

The article tells the story of a Chinese family who immigrated to the U.S. fifty years ago. The mother, who was probably infected with hepatitis B, died from inoperable liver cancer. Later, two of her sons died from liver disease brought on by hepatitis B. Eventually, all the siblings learned they were infected with hepatitis B and were at risk for liver disease. They most likely contracted it from their mother during birth.

Chinese, especially those who immigrate from Fujian, are at a higher risk for contracting hepatitis B.

The author of the article had the chance to speak with one of the liver specialists who eventually cared for the family.

The siblings he cared for, I learned, were faring well. “But what a pity,” my colleague said shaking his head. “If only one of the clinicians they had seen earlier had been a little more aware of some of the health concerns of Asian-Americans.”

Over the last two decades, that awareness has been increasing. While researchers have begun to understand the profound extent to which a patient’s cultural background can influence health care, more and more medical schools and training programs have integrated what is termed “cultural competency” into their curricula. “Culture works at all levels,” said Dr. Arthur Kleinman, professor of medical anthropology and psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “It affects health disparities, communication and interactions in the doctor-patient relationship, the illness experience and health care outcomes.”

EXTRA: The Fresh Air Fund is looking for runners and sponsors to join the Fresh Air Fund-Racers team for the NYC Half-Marathon on August 16th. This is a great way to participate in NYC's premier summer road race while helping Fresh Air Fund children. More information at their website.

Posted by Staff at 09:30 AM
Category: Asian-American health; Health Disparities; fresh air fund; liver disease

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