How is cultural sensitivity central to ethnicity and health?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Cultural sensitivity is central to ethnicity and health because a lack of cultural sensitivity on the part of health care providers can make it harder for members of ethnic minorities to get good health care. 

Members of different ethnic groups, by definition, come from different cultural backgrounds.  This can often mean that they have different attitudes.  Some of the differences in their attitudes can affect their ability to have access to good health care.  For example, let us imagine an ethnic group in which hierarchy is very important and people of lower status are not supposed to question higher status people or make suggestions to them.  Such people might be unwilling to ask questions of their doctors because they will perceive their doctors as people of higher status.  This can be bad for their health care outcomes because they will be less likely to understand what the doctor wants them to do.

Because of this, it is important that health care providers practice cultural sensitivity.  It is important that they understand the cultures of their patients so they know what problems those cultures might cause.  If they understand the patients’ cultures, they can try to devise ways to get around the problems created by the cultural differences.  If they are able to do this, they can deliver high-quality health care to people of all ethnic backgrounds.

Thus, we can see that cultural sensitivity is important to ethnicity and health because it can be harder for ethnic minorities to get good health care if they and their providers have cultural differences that the providers are not aware of or do not know how to deal with.