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Leading a Cultural Competence Revolution

With more than 127 years of history in Brooklyn and a firm commitment to serve our community, it is no wonder that we've become nationally recognized leaders of culturally competent health care services. (Link to our diversity video on YouTube)

Lutheran's unique approach to health care ensures the total well-being of Brooklyn's diverse neighborhoods, which host a multitude of cultures and ethnicities that are constantly evolving.

"As a social ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, we share the ELCA's mission in health, healing and wholeness," said Rev. Don Stiger, SVP for Mission and Spiritual Care. "By acknowledging the changes in our community we have integrated cultural competency with superior health care. It's designed with an understanding of how knowledge of cultural and religious differences contribute to better health care."

LHC is unique in that it has a vice president for Cultural Competence and a cultural initiatives coordinator as part of its staff. Unlike most organizations, Lutheran's Cultural Competence VP has her own budget and reports directly to the CEO. "Lutheran is a place where cultural competency is practiced as seriously as medicine," says Virginia Tong, VP for Cultural Competence. "This level of support has truly put us at the forefront. We have been fortunate to share our challenges and successes with entities that create standards on cultural competence including federal, state and city governments as well as Joint Commission and other organizations."

A powerful component of Lutheran's team are Chinese, Arabic and Orthodox Jewish community liaisons that help patients navigate through the health care system. These liaisons act as representatives as well as conduits between patient caregivers and members of the community on a daily basis. Additionally, there are Chinese, Latino, Arab, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), Senior (older adults) and LGBT advisory committees that work with executive leadership in making decisions that affect their respective cultural communities. Lutheran is currently recruiting now for a new Caribbean advisory committee.

The hospital hosts over 30 cultural celebrations a year, which often feature traditional foods, clothing and dances, as well informational materials for staff and patients alike. Lutheran has an active interfaith chapel, a mosque, as well as a Bikur Cholim Yad Yaakov room, fully-stocked with kosher snacks and Shabbos provisions. Kosher and Halal meals are also available for Jewish and Muslim patients. Interpretation and translation services are available 24 hours a day. Hospital maps and signage feature up to six different languages (English, Arabic, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and Yiddish). Even the Lutheran HealthCare website is available in five different languages. The network also features UN style interpretation devices (see photo right) with an NIH funded pilot underway utilizing the latest in simultaneous interpretation.

Lutheran is home to Brooklyn's only Chinese inpatient health care unit, designed to specifically meet the needs of one of the city's fastest growing ethnic groups. Opened in 2004, the unit offers multilingual medical staff available 24 hours a day to communicate with patients in Mandarin, Cantonese and English, Chinese meals prepared by a Chinese cook, culturally sensitive color schemes and health care staff trained in the beliefs and customs of their patients.

Training services are regularly offered to staff and providers on such topics as "The Diversity of the Spanish Language: some nuances and practical implications for health care." Reports and surveys have been conducted by LHC doctors and presented on "Health Concerns for Asian Pacific Islanders," "Health Care in the Arabic Community" and more. Seminars have been held to discuss "Culturally Competent Skills for Effective Communication." The Senior Initiatives Committee regularly meets to strengthen our understanding of the needs of seniors (photo at left).

As Lutheran's mission states, LHC has no reason for being of its own; it exists only to serve the needs of its neighbors. Lutheran Medical Center, the hub of Lutheran HealthCare, is located in Sunset Park, an immigrant neighborhood in southwest Brooklyn with an extremely diverse group of neighbors.

Forty nine percent of Sunset Park's residents are foreign-born and 79 percent of the people in the community speak a primary language other than English at home. Additionally, almost 50 percent of local students are designated as English Language Learners. The community is currently 50 percent Latino, with a growing Asian population (25 percent).

More Cultural Competence Highlights:
    · Only hospital that provides Halal food
    · 1st Chinese Inpatient Unit
    · Prolingo U.N. style interpretation devices
    · Staff orientation devoted to cultural competence
    · Modesty gowns
    · Interfaith and individual prayers rooms, chapels and mosques
    · Access to state-of-the-art interpretation services in nearly 150 languages

Link to our diversity video on YouTube.

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