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Delivering Responsive and Respectful Health Care: What are CLAS

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 1: What are CLAS?

Culturally and linguistically appropriate services (CLAS) are an approach to delivering health care in a manner that is responsive and respectful to a patient’s cultural and communication needs. Implementing CLAS ensures you are respectful to diverse patients’ health practices, beliefs and needs. CLAS consider cultural health beliefs, preferred languages, health literacy levels and communication needs, and may improve the quality of services provided to all individuals. Ultimately, this will help reduce health disparities and achieve health equity.

Providing CLAS is one strategy to help eliminate health inequities and improve quality of care. As a provider, practicing cultural competency and cultural humility is key when providing CLAS.

  • Cultural competency refers to the developmental process in which one gains the awareness, knowledge and skills to work and communicate effectively in cross-cultural situations.
  • Cultural humility refers to the process of understanding one’s biases and privileges, managing power imbalances and maintaining a stance that is open to others in relation to aspects of their cultural identity that are most important to them.

What are the National CLAS Standards?

The National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care (the National CLAS Standards) gives health organizations 15 action steps for providing CLAS. The National CLAS Standards and information to help you put them into practice can be found here.

The Principal Standard (No. 1) calls on organizations to “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.”

The remaining standards are divided into three themes:

  1. Governance, Leadership and Workforce (Standards 2‐4)
  2. Communication and Language Assistance (Standards 5‐8)
  3. Engagement, Continuous Improvement and Accountability (Standards 9‐15)

To assess the current state of your organization’s CLAS standards, implementation and knowledge, please fill out this short self-assessment form. The information provided will serve as a baseline for your current knowledge and beliefs on the CLAS standards, implementation and future implementation plans. This service will benefit diverse populations served within your organization.