The importance of cultural competency in general pediatrics

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Purpose of review

There is a growing awareness of the importance of cultural competency in pediatrics. The authors review the most recent studies that examine the impact of cultural competency on general pediatric care, explore cultural beliefs and practices affecting clinical care, and describe culturally sensitive interventions designed to address racial/ethnic health disparities.

Recent findings

The beneficial effects of cultural competency embrace health outcomes, quality of care, and patient satisfaction, while failure to consider language and culture can have serious adverse consequences for clinical care, including patient safety and healthcare access. A five-component model of cultural competency has been developed, and a growing literature details an array of normative cultural values, folk illnesses, parent beliefs/practices, and provider behaviors that can have a profound impact on pediatric care. Culturally sensitive interventions are being developed to lessen racial/ethnic health disparities.


A goal for the pediatrician is to provide culturally competent healthcare by using trained medical interpreters with limited English-proficient families, being familiar with normative cultural values that affect the healthcare of commonly encountered racial/ethnic groups, and asking about folk illness beliefs and ethnomedical treatments.

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