/ Modified may 14, 2014 7:12 a.m.

Cultural Sensitivity Can Improve Health Care, Experts Say

Researchers find that cultural diversity and culturally appropriate care bridge the gap between health care providers and patients, with positive results.

When Roberto Dansie walks into a room, he brings a few different worlds with him.

The clinical psychologist and cultural diversity expert has Irish-American, Mexican, Mayan and Toltec ancestry, and spent his childhood navigating these different elements of his identity while growing up in California and Mexico.

Now, he’s drawing on his experience to bridge the gap between health care providers and their patients through his company, Cultural Wisdom.

“I get called to go to different colleges and different communities, not just here but around the world, because they are finding ways to incorporate the culture of the people they are serving into their healing modalities,” Dansie said.

Through presentations and hands-on workshops, Dansie helps his clients—who are often students and practitioners in the health care field—bring more cultural sensitivity and wisdom into their work. As specific as his niche may sound, recognition and demand for his services and others like it is booming, said Sally Reel, associate vice president of health sciences interprofessional education, collaboration and community engagement for the Arizona Health Sciences Center.

“There is a growing sense that being able to change the way people communicate and how they interact with each other becomes important for improving patient care and improving the quality of that care,” Reel said.

Culturally appropriate or culturally competent care aims to bring sensitivity and respect for different cultural beliefs, languages and practices into the relationship between health care providers and their patients. It is playing an increasingly important role in training for the health care professions, and has even become part of national standards of care. But researchers say it isn’t always easy to understand, implement or teach.

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