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Dental Initiative – Topic of Interest #1

Bureau of Health Professions
Division of Scholarships and Loan Repayment

The elimination of health disparities is a key public policy focus of Healthy People 2010, the set of goals and objectives designed by the Department of Health and Human Services to assist the nation achieve the vision of Healthy People in Healthy Communities. The Health Resources and Services Administration's Bureau of Primary Health Care (BPHC) continues to demonstrate leadership and innovation in efforts to eliminate health disparities. The BPHC is a national leader in delivering health care to underserved populations. Guided by a vision that everyone in the United States should have access to health care, the BPHC launched the "One Hundred Percent Access and Zero Health Disparities" Campaign. The National Center for Cultural Competence is supporting the BPHC's Division of Scholarship and Loan Repayment (DSLR) to achieve this vision by promoting the systematic incorporation of culturally competent values, policy, structures and practices within Educational Partnership Agreement (EPA) Programs.

Rationale for Cultural Competence in Health Care

  1. Respond to current and projected demographic changes
  2. Eliminate long-standing health disparities (racial and ethnic disparities data on oral health)
  3. Improve quality of services and health outcomes
  4. Meet legislative, regulatory and accreditation mandates
  5. Gain a competitive edge in the market place
  6. Decrease risk of liability/malpractice
For more detailed information on the rationale for cultural competence in primary care, see Policy Brief 1.

Higher education and health professional education programs need to consider the impact of the following issues as it relates to providing culturally competent services to underserved communities:

  • Historical issues in the way services have been provided to underserved communities
  • the increasing need for student and work force diversity;
  • lack of faculty awareness and knowledge of cultural competence; and
  • content related to cultural and linguistic competence is not consistently in curricula and teaching modalities

Promoting and Supporting EPA Programs to Incorporate Cultural and Linguistic Competence

Educational Partnership Agreement (EPA) Programs should consider addressing the following areas as they build their capacity to respond effectively to the needs of individuals and families from racially, ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse groups.

Faculty Development

Offer professional development, training and mentoring opportunities for faculty. This can include but is not limited to integrating culturally competent principles and practices in pre-service education and training, service learning, problem-based learning, and continuing education.

Recruitment and Retention

Due to the current and emerging demographic trends, EPA programs have to place emphasis on recruiting and retaining culturally diverse faculty, staff and students that reflect the populations that are being served.

Curricula Development

EPA programs should assess the extent to which content related to cultural and linguistic competence is reflected in current curricula. Adapt and modify curricula accordingly.


EPA programs should ensure that advisors and mentors are knowledgeable about the beliefs, values, traditions and practices of the diverse cultural groups being served.

Creating and Maintaining Non-traditional Partnerships

EPA programs must develop the capacity to engage diverse constituencies at multiple levels within any given community to influence services that lead to a greater sense of satisfaction for communities and improved health outcomes.

Building a Research Agenda

Eliminating health disparities call for a new research agenda developed in collaboration with diverse racial and ethnic communities. This requires a fundamental change in how research is designed, conducted and disseminated and must validate the efficacy of culturally competent health education practices. For further information on Partnerships for a Research Agenda, see Policy Brief 3.


Racial and Ethnic Disparities Data on Oral Health
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