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Diversity and Cultural Competency

Diversity defined: A glossary of terms

One of Children's Mercy's Shared Values is respect. This includes respect for the diverse backgrounds and traditions that our patients bring with them into CMH. We commit to celebrate and embrace our diversity. Not only diversity among our patients and families, but so are our colleagues, research partners, and vendors. 

The complex interplay between individual, department, and larger organizational culture has a profound effect on the quality of services we provide.

To be a welcoming and inclusive environment for all patients and their families, we must be mindful of the many elements of diversity. To live up to our reputation as one of the top employers in the city, we must continue to strengthen our capacity to interact and communicate as a working family of diverse employees.

Cultural competence 

Cultural competence is a relatively new, but very common phrase in health care these days. It can be intimidating to imagine that we are supposed to know everything about every culture we might encounter in our work. However, cultural competency means respecting cultural differences being willing to accept that there are many ways of viewing the world.

Cultural competence is also about action, not just thought or perspective. We show our cultural competence in how we treat each other and the patients and families we serve. The basic elements of individual cultural competence include:

Awareness – do I know my own cultures and how they affect what I do?
Attitude – how do I feel about cultural differences?
Knowledge – what do I know about other cultures?
Skills – do I know how to act in a way that respects cultural differences?

Disparities in health and health care

Differences in health status or in quality of care based on race, gender, language, sexual orientation, age, income, education or any other characteristic of an individual or group. These disparities exist throughout the nation in both surprising and unsurprising ways. It has become clear that they arise from the way our systems are built, the way our communities relate, and the nature of human bias. 


Shared cultural practices, perspectives, and distinctions that set apart one group of people from another. That is, ethnicity is a shared cultural heritage. The most common characteristics distinguishing various ethnic groups are ancestry, a sense of history, language, religion, and forms of dress. Ethnic differences are not inherited; they are learned. 


Refers to groups of people who have differences and similarities in biological traits deemed by society to be socially significant. 


Consists of the beliefs, behaviors, objects, and other characteristics common to the members of a particular group or society. Through culture, people and groups define themselves, conform to society's shared values, and contribute to society.

Diversity of ability

Physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.



Ensuring that every individual has an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents, and believing that no one should have poorer life chances because of where, what or whom they were born, what they believe, or whether they have a disability.


The foundation of the health care professions is a commitment to put our patients’ interests ahead of our own. It is unsettling, then, to watch the list of identified disparities grow at a local and national level, and we are challenged to realize that good intentions are not always enough. We must monitor for disparities in the care we give, strive to eliminate differences in health between groups, and make equity a central goal of our work, so that every family served by Children’s Mercy receives the highest quality care every time.


Attainment of the highest level of health for all people. Health Equity means efforts to ensure that all people have full and equal access to opportunities that enable them to lead healthy lives.