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Delivering Responsive and Respectful Health Care: The CLAS Standards

A four-part introduction to culturally and linguistically appropriate services (CLAS)

To promote health equity, Comagine Health is providing a series of articles to help you and your organization become more familiar with the National CLAS Standards. The purpose of this series is to provide you with training resources for implementing CLAS standards, tools to develop a CLAS implementation plan and resources to update beneficiary-engagement products that will ensure that CLAS considerations are included to advance health equity.

Part 2: The Standards

The National Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) Standards are intended to advance health equity, reduce disparities and improve the quality of health care provided. The standards provide a blueprint for health care organizations and individuals to implement culturally and linguistically appropriate services.

The National CLAS Standards are as follows:

Principal Standard

  1. 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.

Governance, Leadership and Workforce

  1. Advance and sustain organizational governance and leadership that promotes CLAS and health equity through policy, practices and allocated resources.
  2. Recruit, promote and support a culturally and linguistically diverse governance, leadership and workforce that are responsive to the population in the service area.
  3. Educate and train governance, leadership and workforce in culturally and linguistically appropriate policies and practices on an ongoing basis.

Communication and Language Assistance

  1. Offer language assistance to individuals who have limited English proficiency and/or other communication needs, at no cost to them, to facilitate timely access to all health care and services.
  2. Inform all individuals of the availability of language assistance services clearly and in their preferred language, verbally and in writing.
  3. Ensure the competence of individuals providing language assistance, recognizing that the use of untrained individuals and/or minors as interpreters should be avoided.
  4. Provide easy-to-understand print and multimedia materials and signage in the languages commonly used by the populations in the service area.

Engagement, Continuous Improvement and Accountability

  1. Establish culturally and linguistically appropriate goals, policies and management accountability, and infuse them throughout the organization's planning and operations.
  2. Conduct ongoing assessments of the organization's CLAS-related activities and integrate CLAS-related measures into measurement and continuous quality improvement activities.
  3. Collect and maintain accurate and reliable demographic data to monitor and evaluate the impact of CLAS on health equity and outcomes, and to inform service delivery.
  4. Conduct regular assessments of community health assets and needs, and use the results to plan and implement services that respond to the cultural and linguistic diversity of populations in the service area.
  5. Partner with the community to design, implement and evaluate policies, practices and services to ensure cultural and linguistic appropriateness.
  6. Create conflict and grievance resolution processes that are culturally and linguistically appropriate to identify, prevent and resolve conflicts or complaints.
  7. Communicate the organization's progress in implementing and sustaining CLAS to all stakeholders, constituents and the general public.

When provider organizations seek to improve cultural competency, language services use and overall quality of care, patients experience increased satisfaction, engagement and care experience with their provider.

Are you interested in seeing CLAS standards applied in real life? Check out the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services CLAS Toolkit. This toolkit offers a practical guide to implementing the National CLAS Standards and provides examples on integrating CLAS into health care settings.