Cultural Competency

Cultural competency is the ability of individuals, as reflected in personal and organizational responsiveness, to understand the social, linguistic, moral, intellectual, and behavioral characteristics of a community or population, and translate this understanding systematically to enhance the effectiveness of health care delivery to diverse populations.

Members are to receive covered services without concern about race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, age, mental, or physical disability, sexual orientation, genetic information or medical history, ability to pay or ability to speak English. Aetna Better Health expects providers to treat all members with dignity and respect as required by federal law including honoring member’s beliefs, be sensitive to cultural diversity, and foster respect for member’s cultural backgrounds. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs, and activities receiving federal financial assistance, such as Medicaid.

Aetna Better Health has developed effective provider education programs that encourage respect for diversity, foster skills that facilitate communication within different cultural groups and explain the relationship between cultural competency and health outcomes. These programs provide information on our members’ diverse backgrounds, including the various cultural, racial, and linguistic challenges that members encounter, and we develop and implement methods for responding to those challenges.

Providers receive education about such important topics as:

  • The reluctance of certain cultures to discuss mental health issues, and of the need to proactively encourage members from such backgrounds to seek needed treatment.
  • The impact that a member’s religious and cultural beliefs can have on health outcomes (e.g., belief in non-traditional healing practices).
  • The problem of health illiteracy and the need to provide patients with understandable health information (e.g., simple diagrams, communicating in the vernacular, etc.).
  • History of the disability rights movement and the progression of civil rights for people with disabilities.
  • Physical and programmatic barriers that impact people with disabilities accessing meaningful care.

Additional provider-focused cultural competency resources can be found with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).