Blog: National Partnership for Action
The New Summer Style: Do you have CLAS?
Posted on 8/7/2013 by Felix Lorenzo
We've all been there, or know someone who has. You're sitting in your chair, patiently waiting to be called, you are submerged in your Smartphone when your eyes and ears can't help but curiously shift over to the front desk. The elder who just walked in is laboring to communicate with the receptionist. Grunts, even frustration ensue as the parties fail to reach an understanding. You become mesmerized by the exchange; the back and forth between two individuals who dominate different languages. At that moment you have an internal debate as to whether intervene; you are fluent in both.
These are some of the questions I have had in those situations, which are more common than you would expect.
It is projected that by 2050 the U.S. demographic makeup will be 9 percent Asian, 13 percent Black, 29 percent Hispanic, and 47 percent non-Hispanic White. Recent studies show that approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population (a little over 58 million people), speak a language other than English at home, and over 24 million people have limited English proficiency, which has implications for their health equity and health care access.
Though health inequities are directly related to the existence of historical and current discrimination and social injustice, one of the most modifiable factors is the lack of culturally and linguistically appropriate services (CLAS). CLAS can be broadly defined as care and services that are respectful of and responsive to the cultural and linguistic needs of all individuals.
SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
CLAS is nationally recognized as an integral strategy in eliminating disparities in health and health care. With that in mind, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released enhanced standards on CLAS implementation in health care settings this April, titled “A Blueprint for Advancing and Sustaining CLAS Policy and Practice.” The “Blueprint” is a user-friendly implementation guide for advancing and sustaining CLAS within health and health care organizations, dedicating one chapter to each of the 15 Standards. These chapters review the Standard’s purpose, components and strategies for implementation. In addition, each chapter provides a list of resources that offer additional information and guidance on that Standard.
I challenge you to think profoundly about the world you want. The CLAS Standards are more than just a tool for healthcare organizations.
They can be utilized by grassroots, state, regional and federal groups to tear down many of the hurdles affecting our population today. By understanding, valuing, and incorporating the cultural differences of America's population and reflecting one's own health-related values and beliefs; organizations, practitioners, and individuals can support a health care system that responds appropriately to, and directly serves the unique needs of diverse populations (Katz, 1998).
To add more CLAS to your summer style, visit https://www.thinkculturalhealth.hhs.gov/Content/clas.asp
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The NPA works to achieve health equity -- the highest level of health for all people. This blog is a venue for professionals from all fields and sectors to share their thoughts on pressing issues, news and events pertaining to health equity. Follow and participate in this candid discussion.
About the Author
Felix Lorenzo served as an intern with the Office of Minority Health Resource Center during summer 2013. He graduated with a Masters of Public Health in Management and Policy from The University of Florida. For his PhD he will conduct research on health disparities among minority and underserved populations in rural communities, and the psychosocial factors that influence limited English proficient patients to make medical decisions.
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