Cultural Competency

What is Cultural Competency in Healthcare?

Cultural competency in health care describes the ability of systems to provide care to patients with diverse values, beliefs and behaviors, including the tailoring of health care delivery to meet patients’ social, cultural and linguistic needs. A culturally competent health care system is one that acknowledges the importance of culture, incorporates the assessment of cross-cultural relations, recognizes the potential impact of cultural differences, expands cultural knowledge, and adapts services to meet culturally unique needs. Ultimately, cultural competency is recognized as an essential means of reducing racial and ethnic disparities in health care.


Purpose of Health Choice Arizona Cultural Competence

Health Choice Arizona has a Cultural Competency Program which includes a Cultural Competency Plan (CCP).   The vision of the cultural program is to ensure all members have access to quality health care and can achieve their potential for health and well-being. The program is managed on a set of principles which guide our decision making, and practices for collaboration.

Our plans are designed to guarantee a member’s right to be treated fairly and with respect without regard to age, ethnicity, race, sex (gender), religion, national origin, creed, tribal affiliation, ancestry, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, genetic information, socio-economic status, physical or intellectual disability, ability to pay, mental/physical diagnosis and/or cultural and linguistic need. We ensure delivery of services in consideration for the member’s preferred language, English proficiency, literacy, visual, and auditory abilities.

Our approach in honoring diversity is by working to understand the core needs of those in our service areas and designing services and materials to meet those unique needs strategically. HCA oversees and manages the delivery of services with the understanding that these needs must be met within the context of varying human behavior which includes but is not limited to thought, communication, actions, customs, beliefs and values. With these key elements in mind, our CCP aims to ensure:

  • HCA meets the unique diverse needs of the populations we serve;
  • Our staff value, foster and embrace diversity within the organization;
  • Services are provided in a culturally and linguistically competent manner to all enrollees, including those with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) ;
  • Members with LEP have their communication needs met; and
  • Our provider partners fully recognize and are sensitive to the cultural and linguistic differences of the populations we serve

The delivery of culturally and linguistically competent health care and services requires health care providers and/or employees to possess a set of attitudes, skills, behaviors, and policies which enable the organization and staff to work effectively in cross-cultural situations1.  It reflects an understanding of the need for acquiring and using knowledge of the unique health-related beliefs, attitudes, practices, and communication patterns to improve services, strengthen programs, increase community participation, and eliminate disparities in health status among diverse population groups.

1Center for Medicare and Medicaid


Cultural Competency Administrator
Jeanette Mallery, M.A.

Culture and Diversity Council, Chair



Health Choice Arizona oversees language services for the System of Care in accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 CFR Part 438, URAC Accreditation Standards (URAC v7.2, CORE 34, 37 & 40), related state requirements including ACOM Policies 404 and 406, and Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in certain health programs or activities. The goal of the language services is to ensure that Health Choice staff and Health Choice provider staff communicate effectively and meaningfully with LEP individuals.

Health Choice Arizona (Health Choice) and subcontracted providers must make oral interpretation services and translation services available to persons and/or their families with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) at all points of contact that will ensure appropriate delivery of mental health and physical health services for individuals. Oral interpretation and sign language (ASL) services are provided at no charge to the member and/or the member’s family seven days a week, 365 days a year. These services ensure access to qualified interpreters trained on health care terminology. Oral interpretive services must be provided by: qualified interpreter staff, qualified bilingual staff, contracted qualified interpreters, telephone interpretation services, video remote interpretation services or from a qualified individual provider office, agency, or facility. Sign language services are to be provided by license interpreters for the deaf and the hard of hearing pursuant to A.R.S. § 36-1946.

SAMHSA has published a guide for professional care providers and administrators to help understand the role of culture in the delivery of mental health and substance use services. It describes cultural competence and discusses racial, ethnic, and cultural considerations.

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