There is considerable scientific and policy interest in reducing socioeconomic and racial/ethnic disparities in healthcare and health status. Currently, much of the policy focus around reducing health disparities has been geared towards improving access, coverage, quality and the intensity of healthcare. However, health is more a function of lifestyles linked to living and working conditions than of healthcare. Accordingly, effective efforts to improve health and reduce gaps in health need to pay greater attention to addressing the social determinants of health within and outside of the healthcare system. This paper highlights research evidence documenting that tackling the social determinants of health can lead to reductions in health disparities. It focuses both on interventions within the healthcare system that address some of the social determinants of health, as well as, interventions in upstream factors such as housing, neighborhood conditions and increased socioeconomic status that can lead to improvements in health. The studies reviewed highlight the importance of systematic evaluation of social and economic policies that might have health consequences and the need for policy makers, healthcare providers, and leaders across multiple sectors of society to apply currently available knowledge to improve the underlying conditions that impact the health of populations.
racial disparities; socioeconomic disparities; interventions; healthcare
Millions of Americans have unmet oral healthcare needs and profound oral health disparities persist in vulnerable and underserved populations, especially poor children, older adults, and racial and ethnic minorities. Nurses can play a significant role in improving the quality of oral health including access to care with appropriate education and training. The purpose of this paper is to describe New York University College of Nursing's response to this challenge. The Oral Health Nursing Education and Practice (OHNEP) program is a national initiative aimed at preparing a nursing workforce with the competencies to prioritize oral disease prevention and health promotion, provide evidence-based oral healthcare in a variety of practice settings, and collaborate in interprofessional teams across the healthcare system. The overarching goal of this national initiative is to create an educational infrastructure for the nursing profession that advances nursing's contribution to reducing oral health disparities across the lifespan.
Addressing upstream or fundamental causes (such as poverty, limited education, and compromised healthcare access) is essential to reduce healthcare disparities. But such approaches are not sufficient, and downstream interventions, addressing the consequences of those fundamental causes within the context of any existing health system, are also necessary. We present a definition of healthcare disparities and two key principles (that healthcare is a social good and disparities in outcomes are a quality problem) that together provide a framework for addressing disparities downstream. Adapting the chronic care model, we examine a hierarchy of three domains for interventions (health system, provider–patient interactions, and clinical decision making) to reduce disparities downstream and discuss challenges to implementing the necessary changes.
healthcare disparity; poverty; downstream; upstream; education
Substantial research has documented pervasive disparities in the prevalence, severity, and morbidity of asthma among minority populations compared to non-Latino whites. The underlying causes of these disparities are not well understood, and as a result, the leverage points to address them remain unclear. A multilevel framework for integrating research in asthma health disparities is proposed in order to advance both future research and clinical practice. The components of the proposed model include health care policies and regulations, operation of the health care system, provider/clinician-level factors, social/environmental factors, and individual/family attitudes and behaviors. The body of research suggests that asthma disparities have multiple, complex and inter-related sources. Disparities occur when individual, environmental, health system, and provider factors interact with one another over time. Given that the causes of asthma disparities are complex and multilevel, clinical strategies to address these disparities must therefore be comparably multilevel and target many aspects of asthma care. Clinical Implications: Several strategies that could be applied in clinical settings to reduce asthma disparities are described including the need for routine assessment of the patient’s beliefs, financial barriers to disease management, and health literacy, and the provision of cultural competence training and communication skills to health care provider groups.
Asthma disparities; multi-level model of asthma disparities; clinical recommendations
The Surgeon General's Report on Oral Health (SGROH) and the Call to Action to Promote Oral Health outlined the need to increase the diversity, capacity and flexibility of the dental workforce to reduce oral health disparities. This paper provides an update on dental workforce trends since the SGROH in the context of children's oral health needs.
Major challenges remain to ensure a workforce that is adequate to address the needs of all children. The dentist to population ratio is declining, while mal-distribution of dentists continues for rural and underserved communities. The diversity of the dental workforce has only improved slightly, while the diversity of the pediatric population has increased substantially. More pediatric dentists have been trained, and dental educational programs are preparing students for practice in underserved areas, but the impact of these efforts on underserved children is uncertain. Other workforce developments with the potential to improve children's oral health include: enhanced training in children's oral health for general dentists; expanded scope of practice for allied dental health professionals; new dental practitioners including the dental health aid therapist; and increased engagement of pediatricians and other medical practitioners in children's oral health.
The evidence for increasing caries experience in young children points to the need for continued efforts to bolster the oral health workforce. However, workforce strategies alone will not be sufficient to change this situation. Requisite policy changes, educational efforts and strong partnerships with communities will be needed to effect substantive changes in children's oral health.
Dental Workforce; Workforce Trends
Globally, health and social inequities are growing and are created, actively maintained, and aggravated by existing policies and practices. The call for evidence-based policy making to address this injustice seems a promising strategy to facilitate a reversal of existing strategies and the design of new effective programming. Acting on evidence to address inequities requires congruence between identifying the major drivers of disparities and the study of their causes and solutions. Yet, current research on inequities tends to focus on documenting disparities among individuals or subpopulations with little focus on identifying the macro-social causes of adverse population health. Moreover, the research base falls far short of a focus on the solutions to the complex multilevel drivers of disparities. This paper focuses upon recommendations to refocus and improve the public health research evidence generated to inform and create strong evidence-based recommendations for improving population health.
Social determinants of health; Health inequalities; Evidence; Social epidemiology
In 1999, An Oral Health Survey of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) Dental Patients found that 79% of 2- to 5-year-olds had a history of tooth decay. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium in collaboration with Alaska's Tribal Health Organizations (THO) developed a new and diverse dental workforce model to address AI/AN oral health disparities.
This paper describes the workforce model and some experience to date of the Dental Health Aide (DHA) Initiative that was introduced under the federally sanctioned Community Health Aide Program in Alaska. These new dental team members work with THO dentists and hygienists to provide education, prevention and basic restorative services in a culturally appropriate manner.
The DHA Initiative introduced 4 new dental provider types to Alaska: the Primary Dental Health Aide, the Expanded Function Dental Health Aide, the Dental Health Aide Hygienist and the Dental Health Aide Therapist. The scope of practice between the 4 different DHA providers varies vastly along with the required training and education requirements. DHAs are certified, not licensed, providers. Recertification occurs every 2 years and requires the completion of 24 hours of continuing education and continual competency evaluation.
Dental Health Aides provide evidence-based prevention programs and dental care that improve access to oral health care and help address well-documented oral health disparities.
dental workforce; dental mid-level providers; dental therapist
Health disparities have dominated recent discourse among public health and medical researchers. Ever since the United States began to compile health statistics, differences in health status have been noted between majority and non-majority populations. Myriad approaches have been undertaken in an attempt to reduce or eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health. However, the disparities continue to persist. We are at a point in our history where innovative strategies must be explored that will be more effective in addressing racial and ethnic disparities in health. In large part, health disparities exist as a result of inequitable distribution of goods, resources, services and power in America. We have learned that improvements in health cannot come about solely through primary and secondary interventions but rather through an examination of the availability of resources that would allow individuals to improve their health. The goal of this paper is to provide an overview of the contextual factors that affect health disparities, to integrate theory to address disparities and to provide recommendations to encourage systematic changes to eliminate health disparities. It is hoped that this paper will bring about a national discussion relating to addressing the real issues we face in reducing and ultimately eliminating health disparities.
The first 20 years of publication of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention occurred during a period of increased attention to health disparities and advances in knowledge about their determinants. Yet, despite clear documentation of disparities and advanced understanding of determinants, we have made little headway in reducing disparities at the population level. Multilevel models, such as one produced by the Centers for Population Health and Health Disparities (CPHHD), hold promise for understanding the complex determinants of cancer disparities and their interactions as well as translating scientific discoveries into solutions. The CPHHD model maps across a range of scientific disciplines, from the biological to the social, each with its own disciplinary language and methods. The ability to work effectively across disciplinary boundaries is essential to framing comprehensive solutions.
After briefly characterizing the current state of knowledge about health disparities, we outline three major challenges faced by disparities researchers and practitioners and offer suggestions for addressing these challenges.
These challenges are how to consider race and ethnicity in disparities research, how best to translate discoveries into public health solutions to cancer disparities, and how to create a research environment that supports the successful execution of multilevel research.
Attention to all three of the challenges outlined above is urgently needed to advance our efforts to eliminate cancer disparities.
Addressing the challenges outlined above will help to eliminate disparities in the future.
There is growing interest in elucidating the role of place in shaping disparities in the delivery and quality of health care. Recent evidence demonstrates that the quality, accessibility, availability, and affordability of health care often varies by the geographic clustering of the population by race/ethnicity. As a salient organizing feature of American society, we focus on racial/ethnic residential segregation to elucidate a framework for investigating the role of place in health care disparities. Segregation is a manifestation of institutionalized discrimination, perpetuating racial disadvantage in geography, opportunity, and access to resources. This paper synthesizes the extant health services research literature and presents a framework describing the influence of segregation operating through neighborhood-, health care system-, provider-, and individual-level mechanisms to shape health care access and utilization as well as the quality of preventive, diagnostic, therapeutic, and end-of-life services across the lifecourse. Gaps in understanding the contribution of segregation to health care disparities, methodological and conceptual challenges, and research issues are discussed. Research elucidating place-based health care inequalities in access, utilization, and quality has the potential to identify effective interventions and policy-based solutions.
The purpose of this study was to assess information available in the dental literature on oral health-related cultural beliefs. In the US, as elsewhere, many racial/ethnic minority groups shoulder a disproportionate burden of oral disease. Cultural beliefs, values and practices are often implicated as causes of oral health disparities, yet little is known about the breadth or adequacy of literature about cultural issues that could support these assertions. Hence, this rigorous assessment was conducted of work published in English on cultural beliefs and values in relation to oral health status and dental practice. Four racial/ethnic groups in the US (African-American, Chinese, Filipino and Hispanic/Latino) were chosen as exemplar populations.
The dental literature published in English for the period 1980–2006 noted in the electronic database PUBMED was searched, using keywords and MeSH headings in different combinations for each racial/ethnic group to identify eligible articles. To be eligible the title and abstract when available had to describe the oral health-related cultural knowledge or orientation of the populations studied.
Overall, the majority of the literature on racial/ethnic groups was epidemiologic in nature, mainly demonstrating disparities in oral health rather than the oral beliefs or practices of these groups. A total of 60 relevant articles were found: 16 for African-American, 30 for Chinese, 2 for Filipino and 12 for Hispanic/Latino populations. Data on beliefs and practices from these studies has been abstracted, compiled and assessed. Few research-based studies were located. Articles lacked adequate identification of groups studied, used limited methods and had poor conceptual base.
The scant information available from the published dental and medical literature provides at best a rudimentary framework of oral health related ideas and beliefs for specific populations.
Health disparities are a persistent problem worldwide. A major obstacle to reducing health disparities is reliance on “consumable interventions,” that is, interventions that, once used, cannot be used again. To reduce health disparities, interventions are required that can be used again and again without losing their therapeutic power, that can reach people even if local health care systems do not provide them with needed health care, and that can be shared globally without taking resources away from the populations where the interventions were developed.
This paper presents the argument that automated self-help evidence-based Internet interventions meet the above criteria and can contribute to the reduction of health disparities worldwide. Proof-of-concept studies show that evidence-based Internet interventions can reach hundreds of thousands of people worldwide and could be used in public sector settings to augment existing offerings and provide services not currently available (such as prevention interventions). This paper presents a framework for systematically filling in a matrix composed of columns representing common health problems and rows representing languages.
To bring the benefits of evidence-based Internet interventions to the underserved, public sector clinics should establish eHealth resource centers, through which patients could be screened online for common disorders and provided with evidence-based Internet intervention services not currently available at the clinics. These resources should be available in the patients’ languages, in formats that do not require literacy, and that can be accessed with mobile devices. Such evidence-based Internet interventions should then be shared with public sector clinics as well as individuals anywhere in the world.
Finally, this paper addresses sustainability and describes a continuum of evidence-based Internet interventions to share nationally and across the world. This approach to expanding health service delivery will significantly contribute to a reduction of health disparities worldwide, adding to the often-quoted slogan, “Think globally, act locally,” a third line: “Share globally.”
Internet; online treatment; prevention; clinical trials; health disparities; consumable interventions; smoking; depression; public health; evidence-based; Internet interventions
Motivated by the need to meaningfully implement the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM’s) definition of health care disparity, this paper proposes statistical frameworks that lay out explicitly the needed causal assumptions for defining disparity measures. Our key emphasis is that a scientifically defensible disparity measure must take into account the direction of the causal relationship between allowable covariates that are not considered to be contributors to disparity and non-allowable covariates that are considered to be contributors to disparity, to avoid flawed disparity measures based on implausible populations that are not relevant for clinical or policy decisions. However, these causal relationships are usually unknown and undetectable from observed data. Consequently, we must make strong causal assumptions in order to proceed. Two frameworks are proposed in this paper, one is the conditional disparity framework under the assumption that allowable covariates impact non-allowable covariates but not vice versa. The other is the marginal disparity framework under the assumption that non-allowable covariates impact allowable ones but not vice versa. We establish theoretical conditions under which the two disparity measures are the same, and present a theoretical example showing that the difference between the two disparity measures can be arbitrarily large. Using data from the Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiology Survey, we also provide an example where the conditional disparity is misled by Simpson’s paradox, while the marginal disparity approach handles it correctly.
Counterfactual populations; Disparities; Potential outcomes; Weighting; Mental health; Simpson’s paradox
Access to oral health care is essential for promoting and maintaining overall health and well-being, yet oral health disparities exist among vulnerable and underserved populations. While nurses make up the largest portion of the health care work force, educational preparation to address oral health needs of elders and persons with disabilities is limited across nursing curricula. This descriptive study reports on the interdisciplinary development, implementation, and testing of an oral health module that was included and infused into a graduate nursing curriculum in a three-phase plan. Phase 1 includes evaluation of a lecture presented to eight gerontological nurse practitioner (GNP) students. Phase 2 includes evaluation of GNP students' perceptions of learning, skills, and confidence following a one-time 8-hour practicum infused into 80 required practicum hours. The evaluation data show promise in preparing nurse practitioner students to assess and address preventive oral health needs of persons aging with disabilities such that further infusion and inclusion in a course for nurse practitioners across five specialties will implemented and tested in Phase 3.
There is a growing burden of oral disease among older adults that is most significantly borne by minorities, the poor, and immigrants. Yet, national attention to oral heath disparities has focused almost exclusively on children, resulting in large gaps in our knowledge about the oral health risks of older adults and their access to care. The projected growth of the minority and immigrant elderly population as a proportion of older adults heightens the urgency of exploring and addressing factors associated with oral health-related disparities. In 2008, the New York City Health Indicators Project (HIP) conducted a survey of a representative sample of 1,870 adults over the age of 60 who attended a random selection of 56 senior centers in New York City. The survey included questions related to oral health status. This study used the HIP database to examine differences in self-reported dental status, dental care utilization, and dental insurance, by race/ethnicity, among community-dwelling older adults. Non-Hispanic White respondents reported better dental health, higher dental care utilization, and higher satisfaction with dental care compared to all other racial/ethnic groups. Among minority older adults, Chinese immigrants were more likely to report poor dental health, were less likely to report dental care utilization and dental insurance, and were less satisfied with their dental care compared to all other racial/ethnic groups. Language fluency was significantly related to access to dental care among Chinese immigrants. Among a diverse community-dwelling population of older adults in New York City, we found significant differences by race/ethnicity in factors related to oral health. Greater attention is needed in enhancing the cultural competency of providers, addressing gaps in oral health literacy, and reducing language barriers that impede access to care.
Oral health; Older adults; Access to care
Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) contribute greatly to reducing health disparities by providing care to underserved communities. Yet these safety-net clinics face chronic manpower shortages and turnover. Practice-Based Research Networks aid in translating medical science from bench to clinical practice. These networks have been used to understand and improve health-care delivery and reduce disparities. Initiatives to strengthen lagging translational research in dentistry have begun, but there is no FQHC research network that addresses oral health.
This article reviews the potential for, and outlines a model of, an Oral Health FQHC Research Network. It characterizes the needs for an FQHC research network, describes a successful FQHC research-oriented program, and outlines an Oral Health FQHC Research Network conceptual model. It argues that strengthening FQHCs through involvement of their dental staff in clinical research may enhance their jobs, draw staff closer to the community, and strengthen their ability to reduce health disparities.
Reducing racial and ethnic disparities in health care has become an important policy goal in the United States and other countries, but evidence to inform interventions to address disparities is limited. The objective of this study was to identify important dimensions of interventions to reduce health care disparities. We used qualitative research methods to examine interventions aimed at improving diabetes and/or cardiovascular care for patients from racial and ethnic minority groups within five health care organizations. We interviewed 36 key informants and conducted a thematic analysis to identify important features of these interventions. Key elements of interventions included two contextual factors (external accountability and alignment of incentives to reduce disparities) and four factors related to the organization or intervention itself (organizational commitment, population health focus, use of data to inform solutions, and a comprehensive approach to quality). Consideration of these elements could improve the design, implementation, and evaluation of future interventions to address racial and ethnic disparities in health care.
USA; health care disparities; quality improvement; chronic disease care; organizational case studies; race; ethnicity; interventions
The objective of this study was to explore oral health knowledge and beliefs and access to dental care in a culturally distinct Orthodox Jewish community in North London, with a view to informing local health policy.
A dual method qualitative approach to data collection was adopted in this study utilising semi-structured face to face interviews and focus groups with women from this North London orthodox Jewish community. In total nine interviews and four focus groups were conducted with a purposive sample of thirty three mothers from the community aged 21-58 years. The data were transcribed and analysed using Framework Methodology
Cultural influences, competing pressures and perceptions of hereditary influences, together with a lack of contemporary oral health knowledge are the main factors affecting oral health knowledge and beliefs. This supported an overall perspective of disempowerment or a perceived lack of control over oral health behaviours, both for mothers and their children. Community signposting pointed mothers to dental services, whilst family pressures together with inadequate capacity and capability and generic barriers such as fear and cost acted as barriers. Mothers from this community welcomed community development initiatives from the NHS.
The results of this study provide insight into the challenges of a culturally isolated community who would welcome community support through schools and expanded culturally appropriate opening hours to improve access to dental care.
In the current article, the authors examine the potential role of mind-body interventions for preventing or reducing health disparities in a specific group—African American women. The authors first discuss how health disparities affect this group, including empirical evidence regarding the influence of biopsychosocial processes (e.g., psychological stress and social context) on disparate health outcomes. They also detail how African American women's unique stress experiences as a result of distinct sociohistorical and cultural experiences related to race and gender potentially widen exposure to stressors and influence stress responses and coping behaviors. Using two independent, but related, frameworks (Superwoman Schema [SWS] and the Strong Black Woman Script [SBW-S]), they discuss how, for African American women, stress is affected by “strength” (vis-à-vis resilience, fortitude, and self-sufficiency) and the emergent health-compromising behaviors related to strength (e.g., emotional suppression, extraordinary caregiving, and self-care postponement). The authors then describe the potential utility of three mind-body interventions—mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), loving-kindness meditation (LKM), and NTU psychotherapy—for specifically targeting the stress-, strength-, and contextually related factors that are thought to influence disparate outcomes for African American women. Self-awareness, self-care, inter- and intrapersonal restorative healing and a redefinition of inner strength may manifest through developing a mindfulness practice to decrease stress-related responses; using LKM to cultivate compassion and forgiveness for self and others; and the balance of independence and interdependence as a grounding NTU principle for redefining strength. The authors conclude with a discussion of potential benefits for integrating key aspects of the interventions with recommendations for future research.
mind-body; CAM; African American women; stress; health disparities; strength; MBSR; loving-kindness; NTU
An impressive body of public health knowledge on health care disparities among Latinos has been produced. However, inconclusive and conflicting results on predictors of health care disparities remain.
We examined the theoretical assumptions and methodological limitations of acculturation research in understanding Latino health care disparities, the evidence for socioeconomic position as a predictor of health care disparities, and the effectiveness of cultural competency practice. Persistent use of culture-driven acculturation models decenters social determinants of health as key factors in health disparities and diminishes the effectiveness of cultural competency practice. Social and economic determinants are more important predictors than is culture in understanding health care disparities.
Improvements in the material conditions of low-income Latinos can effectively reduce health care disparities.
Indigenous Australians suffer substantially poorer oral health than their non-Indigenous counterparts and new approaches are needed to address these disparities. Previous work in Port Augusta, South Australia, a regional town with a large Indigenous community, revealed associations between low oral health literacy scores and self-reported oral health outcomes. This study aims to determine if implementation of a functional, context-specific oral health literacy intervention improves oral health literacy-related outcomes measured by use of dental services, and assessment of oral health knowledge, oral health self-care and oral health- related self-efficacy.
This is a randomised controlled trial (RCT) that utilises a delayed intervention design. Participants are Indigenous adults, aged 18 years and older, who plan to reside in Port Augusta or a nearby community for the next two years. The intervention group will receive the intervention from the outset of the study while the control group will be offered the intervention 12 months following their enrolment in the study. The intervention consists of a series of five culturally sensitive, oral health education workshops delivered over a 12 month period by Indigenous project officers. Workshops consist of presentations, hands-on activities, interactive displays, group discussions and role plays. The themes addressed in the workshops are underpinned by oral health literacy concepts, and incorporate oral health-related self-efficacy, oral health-related fatalism, oral health knowledge, access to dental care and rights and entitlements as a patient. Data will be collected through a self-report questionnaire at baseline, at 12 months and at 24 months. The primary outcome measure is oral health literacy. Secondary outcome measures include oral health knowledge, oral health self-care, use of dental services, oral health-related self-efficacy and oral health-related fatalism.
This study uses a functional, context-specific oral health literacy intervention to improve oral health literacy-related outcomes amongst rural-dwelling Indigenous adults. Outcomes of this study will have implications for policy and planning by providing evidence for the effectiveness of such interventions as well as provide a model for working with Indigenous communities.
Although much attention has been paid to health disparities in the past decades, interventions to ameliorate disparities have been largely unsuccessful. One reason is that the interventions have not been culturally tailored to the disparity populations whose problems they are meant to address. Community-engaged research has been successful in improving the outcomes of racial and ethnic minority groups and thus has great potential for decreasing between-group health disparities. In this article, the authors argue that a type of community-engaged research, community-based participatory research (CBPR), is particularly useful for social workers doing health disparities research because of its flexibility and degree of community engagement. After providing an overview of community research, the authors define the parameters of CBPR, using their own work in African American and white disparities in breast cancer mortality as an example of its application. Next, they outline the inherent challenges of CBPR to academic and community partnerships. The authors end with suggestions for developing and maintaining successful community and academic partnerships.
cancer; community; engagement; health disparities; research
In 2005, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation created Finding Answers: Disparities Research for Change, a program to identify, evaluate, and disseminate interventions to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the care and outcomes of patients with cardiovascular disease, depression, and diabetes. In this introductory paper, we present a conceptual model for interventions that aim to reduce disparities. With this model as a framework, we summarize the key findings from the six other papers in this supplement on cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, breast cancer, interventions using cultural leverage, and pay-for-performance and public reporting of performance measures. Based on these findings, we present global conclusions regarding the current state of health disparities interventions and make recommendations for future interventions to reduce disparities. Multifactorial, culturally tailored interventions that target different causes of disparities hold the most promise, but much more research is needed to investigate potential solutions and their implementation.
disparities; interventions; cardiovascular disease; depression; diabetes; breast cancer
A robust, linear association between socioeconomic status (SES) and health has been identified across many populations and endpoints. This relationship is typically monotonic, so that each step down the SES hierarchy brings increased vulnerability to disease and premature mortality. Despite growing attention to health disparities, scientists and policy makers have made little progress toward confronting their causes and implementing effective solutions. Using the Reserve Capacity Model (Gallo & Matthews, 2003) as an organizing framework, the current article examines the contribution of resilient psychosocial resources to socioeconomic disparities in physical health. Findings suggest that deficient psychosocial resources, such as low perceptions of control and social support, may be one of many factors that connect low SES with poor health. Additional research is needed to test these relationships and their underlying mechanisms, to consider interventions to enhance reserve capacity, and to evaluate the efficacy of such efforts in fostering resilience to socioeconomic hardship.
Health Disparities; Socioeconomic Status; Resources; Reserve Capacity
Racial and ethnic disparities in the United States exist along the entire continuum of mental health care, from access and use of services to the quality and outcomes of care. Efforts to address these inequities in mental health care have focused on adapting evidence-based treatments to clients’ diverse cultural backgrounds. Yet, like many evidence-based treatments, culturally adapted interventions remain largely unused in usual care settings. We propose that a viable avenue to address this critical question is to create a dialogue between the fields of implementation science and cultural adaptation. In this paper, we discuss how integrating these two fields can make significant contributions to reducing racial and ethnic disparities in mental health care.
The use of cultural adaptation models in implementation science can deepen the explicit attention to culture, particularly at the client and provider levels, in implementation studies making evidence-based treatments more responsive to the needs and preferences of diverse populations. The integration of both fields can help clarify and specify what to adapt in order to achieve optimal balance between adaptation and fidelity, and address important implementation outcomes (e.g., acceptability, appropriateness). A dialogue between both fields can help clarify the knowledge, skills and roles of who should facilitate the process of implementation, particularly when cultural adaptations are needed. The ecological perspective of implementation science provides an expanded lens to examine how contextual factors impact how treatments (adapted or not) are ultimately used and sustained in usual care settings. Integrating both fields can also help specify when in the implementation process adaptations may be considered in order to enhance the adoption and sustainability of evidence-based treatments.
Implementation science and cultural adaptation bring valuable insights and methods to how and to what extent treatments and/or context should be customized to enhance the implementation of evidence-based treatments across settings and populations. Developing a two-way street between these two fields can provide a better avenue for moving the best available treatments into practice and for helping to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in mental health care.
Cultural adaptation; Implementation science; Mental health care disparities