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Recommendations Made to Educate More Culturally Competent Public Health Practitioners

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The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH) have released recommendations for training medical and public health students to become more culturally competent practitioners. The report, “Cultural Competence Education for Students in Medicine and Public Health,” offers guidance on the core cultural competencies at the nexus of medicine and public health, and for the first time, highlights findings by educators in both disciplines on the knowledge, skills, and attitudes critical to address the health needs of an increasingly diverse American public.

“The interdependence of medicine and public health is vital to improving health care and public health at the individual, community, and national levels,” says AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, M.D. “The next generation of doctors and public health practitioners are being trained to ensure the delivery of appropriate, culturally competent clinical care and population health services and policies to serve a diverse population. This report is an invaluable resource for institutions as they educate and train tomorrow’s health professionals.”    

“National health reform, coupled with the critical need for an integrated system of health promotion, disease prevention, and quality care for all, mandates a strong working relationship between experts in public health and medicine,” says Marla J. Gold, M.D., Chair of the ASPH Diversity Committee and Dean of the Drexel University School of Public Health. “One important avenue to the reduction of health disparities among our nation’s people is to ensure a culturally competent workforce. The competencies in this joint report represent a step forward in our efforts to synergize cultural competence education in both public health and medicine. This report also provides a solid framework for continued collaboration in producing high-quality graduates who will help ensure the public’s health and work diligently to eliminate health and health care disparities.”

The comprehensive report features embedded links to background materials, supporting resources, and examples that can be adapted for instructional use by faculty in medical schools and graduate schools or programs of public health to standardize curricula, benchmark student performance, and prepare graduates to work in culturally competent practices. The learning objectives outlined in the report are organized by knowledge, skill, and attitude categories. Additionally, a guide mapping the medicine and public health cultural competencies to the general areas adopted by the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education is included in the appendix.

The AAMC and the ASPH have collaborated previously on other educational initiatives, yet this report marks the first time cultural competency education has been the focus. In spring 2011, the AAMC and the ASPH partnered with the other founding members of the Interprofessional Education Collaborative to publish “Core Competencies for Interprofessional Collaborative Practice.” The Collaborative includes the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM), the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), and ADEA.

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