Thursday, May 16, 2013

HHS Releases Enhanced Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Service Guidelines

Last month, the Department of Health and Human Services released enhanced National Care Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) in health care.  The enhanced standards, developed by the HHS Office of Minority Health, are a comprehensive update of the 2000 National CLAS Standards, and include the expertise of federal and non-federal partners nationwide.

These standards, according to the Office of Minority Health, are intended to advance health equity, improve quality, and help eliminate health care disparities by providing a blueprint for individuals and health care organizations to implement culturally and linguistically appropriate services.

The burden of insufficient and inequitable care related to racial and ethnic health disparities has been estimated to top $1 trillion, according to a study cited by HHS. These losses are due to the provision of care to a sicker and more disadvantaged population, as well as the indirect costs of health inequities such as lost productivity, lost wages, absenteeism, family leave, and premature death.  Specifically, the study found that More than 30 percent of direct medical costs faced by African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans were excess costs due to health inequities – more than $230 billion over a four year period.

The new standards, released at a joint press event with the Kaiser Family Foundation, are part of an effort to emphasize the importance of integrating standards into practice in order to improve quality of care and services for everyone.

HHS officials were joined in the announcement by representatives from the American Hospital Association, Texas Health Institute, and National Center for Cultural Competence at Georgetown University. 

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