There is compelling need to reduce disparities in behavioral health care in communities across America. The lack of health equity adversely affects our neighborhoods, communities, and the broader society – making the issue not only an individual concern but also a public health problem. Culturally and linguistically appropriate services are widely recognized as effective in improving the quality of healthcare and services (Beach et al., 2004; Goode et al., 2006).
In 2000, the U.S. Office of Minority Health released the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care or CLAS Standards. They provide a guideline for improving services via a blueprint for health and healthcare organizations to implement culturally relevant services.
The principal CLAS standard is: Provide effective, equitable, understandable, and respectful quality care and services that are responsive to diverse cultural health beliefs and practices, preferred languages, health literacy, and other communication needs.
This evidence-based practice can be implemented by:
- Engaging community members in the design and furnishing of program spaces to promote a welcoming and culturally respectful environment;
- Developing strategies to collect authentic public input that includes the immigrant community;
- Developing multiple communication channels to engage community members;
- Engaging local-level leadership to promote and support CLAS Standards at the program and community level;
- Developing and implementing a sustainability plan that includes annual evaluation of CLAS competencies, policies, and practices;
- Establishing regularly scheduled CLAS trainings and professional development; and
- Posting CLAS Standards in public areas to inform clients of their rights and the agency’s commitment to them.
Watch: CLAS Standards in Action