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Cultural Fluency: Closing the Communication Gap in Minority Healthcare

In today’s increasingly diverse society, it is essential that healthcare providers and facilitators possess cultural fluency. Cultural fluency is not just about speaking the same language but also about being sensitive to cultural differences among people from different racial and/or ethnic backgrounds. This is particularly important in the healthcare context because any breakdown in communication can have serious consequences for patient care.

What is Cultural Fluency?

Cultural fluency involves an understanding of how cultures view themselves and others, including different values and beliefs about health, illness, healing, and death. It requires a deep understanding of cultural norms and expectations as well as an ability to communicate effectively and empathetically, considering those differences. In addition, it involves being able to identify and avoid biases that could negatively affect health outcomes.

By recognizing the challenges our minority patients experience in their healthcare journeys, we can design and equip HCPs and patients with the necessary tools for better patient outcomes. According to a recent study by Pew Research Center, many Black and Latino patients are more likely to report negative experiences with their health care provider. Often feeling as though their health concerns are not being taken seriously or that they are not feeling heard, minority patients are suffering across major quality of care measures.

The Need for Cultural Competency in Healthcare Providers

Further complicating the issue of cultural competency is the lack of minority representation in the medical profession. Just 7% of all physicians and surgeons are Hispanic, according to an analysis of federal government data, far lower than the share of Hispanics in the overall workforce. And less than 6% of U.S. physicians are African American - a number largely unchanged since 1940, according to a 2021 study by UCLA.

As the healthcare systems works to dismantle systemic racism, it requires a broad range of solutions that put minority representation and cultural fluency at the center. Stakeholders from payer, providers, and even pharma brands need to invest in cultural training to better understand and properly serve the needs of minority patient populations. Cultural fluency – across the continuum of care – can go a long way to bridging communication gaps at the root of many health disparities we see today.

Through increased awareness and sensitivity towards cultural differences, we can facilitate open and honest communication, drive empathy, and ensure that every patient receives quality care without bias or prejudice - regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation. Ultimately, by closing conversation gaps we can help close equity gaps among minority patients. 


  • Wally Sabria serves as the Chief Content Officer of The Axis Agency and leads its Brand + Diversity Consulting practice group. Over his 15+ year career in multicultural marketing, he has leveraged digital and social media to help leading brands and organizations authentically engage communities of color.