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Cross-Cultural Health

The MMA is dedicated to eliminating racial, ethnic, and cultural health disparities in Minnesota. To achieve that end, the MMA supports efforts that help physicians and patients overcome cultural, racial, and linguistic barriers to quality health care. The MMA's Minority and Cross-Cultural Affairs Committee identifies and examines problems encountered by minority citizens in accessing health care and other factors that prevent minority citizens from achieving high levels of care.

Minnesota demographics and racial disparities

Minnesota is ranked as one of the healthiest states in the nation. However, the state’s minority populations generally suffer worse health outcomes. According to a 2007 Commonwealth Fund report, Minnesota ranked 15th in terms of health care system performance, but 38th in the care of its most vulnerable residents (minorities, people with low incomes, the uninsured). This is a concern given that Minnesota is becoming more ethnically and racially diverse. 

Bar Graph of MN Births to Foreign Mothers  


Minnesota State Demographic Center

Medical interpretation

Communication problems have been shown to cause diagnostic errors and medication errors. Physicians need access to high-quality interpreter services and financial support to provide those services. The foreign languages most commonly spoken in Minnesota are Arabic, Cambodian, Hmong, Laotian, Oromo, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese, according to the Minnesota Department of Education.


Tips on working with an interpreter:

  • Make sure that you are working with a qualified interpreter and not a family member or friend.
  • Face the patient and talk to him/her, as if you both speak the same language, and ask one question at a time. Remember that the interpreter is required to interpret everything said in the room, such as curse words, side conversations, and ‘irrelevant’ or repetitive comments. Click here to learn more about interpreter services in Minnesota.

    Bar Graph of Latino Population in Minnesota

    Minnesota State Demographic Center
    CLAS standards 

The MMA's Minority and Cross-Cultural Affairs Committee works to educate providers about the Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) Standards to make their practices more culturally and linguistically accessible. These 14 national standards are organized by the three themes: culturally competent care, language access services, and organizational support for cultural competence. The federal government requires providers to follow those standards related to language access.



Cultural Competency

Culturally stimulating books,  a reading list from the MMA Minority and Cross-Cultural Affairs Committee 

Minnesota Department of Health cultural competency resources

Utah Department of Health cultural competency page, an excellent collection of resources

Culture Care Connection, Minnesota focused cultural competency resources developed by Stratis Health and UCare

Minnesota demographics and disparities

Minnesota language maps

MMA Quality Review issue on disparities

Race, Socioeconomic Status, and Premature Mortality, Minnesota Medicine

Medical interpretation

MMA interpreter services web page

MMA/ISWG interpreter training Powerpoint presentation for physicians

Tips for working with an interpreter

Patient educational materials

International Health Education Alliance Minnesota-based group providing multicultural and multilingual publications including patient education materials in different languages and directed toward different cultures.

Healthy roads media - more than 18 languages on a wide variety of health topics

MedlinePlus - health information in multiple languages

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