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Health care workers openly admitted that they lacked competence in dealing with patients from other cultures. Foto: Žiga Živulović jr./BoBo

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Health care institutions to treat vulnerable groups under new guidelines

A lack of cultural competence in health care can lead to serious problems
11. January 2017 ob 22:02
Ljubljana - MMC RTV SLO

The National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) recently released a new set of guidelines on how to treat vulnerable groups.

The document, entitled “Kulturne kompetence in zdravstvena oskrba” (“Cultural Competences and Health Care”), was published as part of a broader public initiative called “Za boljše zdravje in zmanjšanje neenakosti v zdravju” (“Towards Better Health and Reducing Inequalities in Health”). According to Jožica Maučec Zakotnik of the National Institute of Public Health, this is the first document of its kind in Slovenia.

The authors of the new guidelines first had to identify who these vulnerable groups are. To find out which groups had problems accessing health care services, they conducted a study that identified more than 35 key vulnerable groups: unemployed people, precarious workers, drug users, people with mental health problems, people with mobility impairments etc. Cultural differences were frequently cited as an obstacle by those who participated in the study. According to Maučec Zakotnik, health care workers openly admitted that they lacked competence in dealing with patients from other cultures.

Cultural competence training programs launched
The authors found that many of the obstacles are systemic, meaning that they are legal in nature. Therefore, the authors also issued a set of recommendations on how to tackle the most common obstacles vulnerable groups face when trying to access health care services. The document also includes recommendations on how to ensure equal access to health care services, and a tool that allows health care institutions to assess themselves. “This is a key tool that helps health care institutions identify and address a number of problems,” stressed Maučec Zakotnik.

Andrej Čebokli; translated by D. V.