“We may have different religions, different languages, different coloured skin, but we all belong to one human race."
Kofi Annan, Former Secretary General, United Nations
At a time when several countries across the world have been fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, another issue garnered attention: the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police. While debate over the ensuring protests continues, the incident has brought to attention the racism and bias that exist in the society. Some similarities could be drawn to the healthcare sector with regard to serving patients from different backgrounds.
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane” said Dr Martin Luther King Jr. five decades ago. Even today, disparities in healthcare—access, coverage and quality care—remain a challenge in achieving health equity for the global population. Affordable care is still a distant dream for economically weaker communities across the world. On the other side, there have been several incidents where care givers face issues of racism and bias. We continue to hear or read about patients denying care because the care giver belongs to a certain race, religion, community, or ethnic group.
Diversity and inclusion come from understanding and acknowledging the fact that no two individuals are the same. It becomes more important in a healthcare environment as understanding patient needs and cultural concerns, if any, can help provide effective care. Respecting cultural diversity and building cultural competence enables hospitals and healthcare organisations in better serving the needs of patients irrespective of their race, region or ethnic origin. Healthcare organisations can become better providers of care by building a culturally competent workforce, engaging public through community-based programmes, and developing customised health management programmes that address needs of patients with diverse backgrounds. Most importantly, making diversity and inclusion an organisational priority and aligning with the strategic plan can help healthcare systems achieve health equity.
American Health Association (AHA) launched the #123forEquity pledge campaign with the objective of eliminating health disparity and ensuring every individual, irrespective of his/her community receives high quality, equitable care. Another example is COVID-19 Bias and Anti-Racism Training Act, a new legislation that aims to train health providers and other individuals involved in COVID-19 testing, treatment, vaccine distribution, and response. On July 15,the California senator announced a legislation that authorisesa grant of US$100 million grant for FY20 and FY21 for hospitals and other healthcare providers to organise training programs, in the district. Efforts have been underway to increase diversity and cultural competence in the healthcare institutions and also bring down health disparities. The key to is to execute these campaigns as planned and expand such programs beyond geographical and political boundaries.
This issue features an article that talks about managing cultural diversity in hospital systems, specifically in the current global health landscape affected by Covid-19. The author brings to fore the importance of raising awareness of cultural differences in a diverse world and adopt ways to overcome challenges caused due to lack of people integration.