If Women’s Health is on your mind, you’ll want to take this free online course from U.S. Department of Health & Human Services called “Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) in Maternal Health Care.” I preview it, and show you a cool design trick they embed to make it more accessible – and efficient.
The last several weeks, I’ve been doing a series on freely available resources on health equity that deal with communication. Women’s health is on so many of our minds now. So this week, I’m telling you about a free online course from U.S. Department of Health & Human Services called “Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) in Maternal Health Care”
Hi everybody. I’m Dr. Anne Marie Liebel, and this is “10 Minutes to Better Patient Communication” from Health Communication Partners, your partners in health-equity focused education and communication. Visit healthcommunicationpartners.com. There you’ll also Get the complete show archive from this series, and transcripts for every episode. Are you signed up for our newsletter yet? What are you waiting for? It’s good!
OK here’s the facts on this freely available course. It’s from Think Cultural Health. That’s the program and the website is thinkculturalhealth.hhs.gov. Content for that site is maintained by the Office of Minority Health, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. This course is one of the first things you’ll see listed at that site, thinkculturalhealth.hhs.gov. Links in the show notes of course. If you need some encouragement, definitely watch the testimonials below the course listing on that page. They’re about the CLAS standards.
The course is called “Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) in Maternal Health Care”
It’s free, anyone can take it; you have to sign up with an email address. And the course “is designed for maternal health care providers and students seeking knowledge and skills related to cultural competency, cultural humility, person-centered care, and combating implicit bias across the continuum of maternal health care.”
Now I’m thinking strategically, and you might be, as well. Many people are having to build coalitions, or build arguments, about some elements of women’s health and health equity. So I’m going to talk about this course as a strategic resource. OK, here we go!
Reproductive injustice. Weathering. Medical apartheid. Institutionalized racism. Slavery’s existing impact on the US medical systems, and on how doctors treat patients. This is what you’re going to get in this course. If you want to read up, or refresh on any of these topics, this is your resource.
One of the things that didn’t occur to me until well after I was done the course is that they pull off a pretty neat trick in the design. So I’m going to tell you about it.
The course is strictly text based When you click on it, when you progress through it, you get a screen’s worth of reading. Which is fine. There is a Feature on the screen that I like, a dropdown box called “tell me more.” And if you click on it, you get a small portion of additional reading that isn’t otherwise visible on the page unless you click on it. And if you click on them, there are some of the most interesting, and perhaps controversial, ideas and concepts in the course. So don’t skip them.
There is another feature at the end of each module. There’s a screen full, more than a screen full, of what they call next steps, or what to do next. It’s full of suggestions and most of them are links to high quality resources. Right there. There’s heaps of research, as you would expect from U.S. Department of Health & Human Services!
And that’s when I realized the trick they pull off in the design. When you’re clicking through the course, you’re just reading it, what you’re getting is kind of the tip of the iceberg, what you’re seeing there on this one screen of reading. And that can be all you see if that’s what you want. That’s fine. But…there’s so much more to explore to these topics and these issues. , and I think that’s one reason the drop down boxes are handy. They allow you to take it in stride. When you’re ready to read more you click on it, and there, you’ve got it.
And then those ‘next step’ features at the end of each module, whoa. All sorts of paths you want to go down, you can go down. So I think what they’ve done is they’ve made this enormous topic accessible because they start at the tip of the iceberg, and then when you’re ready to dig deeper, there’s layers and layers of information there that you can go into. Really high quality stuff. I’m gonna talk about those layers in a bit.
But first I want to make a plug for how efficient this is as a resource. Yes, I think it’s efficient, I think it’s a good use of your time. And I’ll tell you why it’s efficient: the resources are all in one place, they’re from a very trusted source, HHS, and resources grouped thematically. So if you have an argument you need to make, or you’re getting ready to give some sort of a talk, if you need to talk to any audience about maternal health, go here. In a way it’s a kind of one stop shop for data, and for stories.
Now, back to those layers. This course uses data to expose layers of infuriating reality. Let me quote you from some of the text: Over the past 30 years, the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. has doubled. Black women were three to four times more likely to die during pregnancy, childbirth, or the postpartum period, regardless of income or education level. American Indian/Alaska Native women were two to three times more likely to die.”
And then they explain, in a very hard-hitting sentence: “Social determinants of health do not fully explain disparities.” So we’re getting down another level deeper. They point out that, “The health care professional has a role to play, saying: “make sure you deliver the highest quality of care to all women. In part, this means going back to the basics of care: connection and compassion.” They say “the bottom line: you can improve your quality of care by understanding, respecting, and responding to a patient’s experiences, values, beliefs, and preferences.”
They also front that this is a challenging process. They say, “It requires courage and self-reflection. It is normal to experience feelings of discomfort, anger, guilt, or sadness when exploring topics in this Course.” They give a whole module on self-awareness.
While we’re on the topic of self awareness, – back to if you have to make a case about maternal health to some audience. Let’s say you know you’re dealing w some folks who can get a little spiky at the mention of terms like ‘bias,’ or ‘stereotype’ check this out, from this course, check these definitions out:
“Biases are mental shortcuts that help us simplify our complex world.” I think that was really nicely put. I think that’s a great definition. It might be handy!
How about this one about stereotypes: “Stereotypes are common, but when left unchecked, they may cause us to treat a patient based on assumptions instead of as an individual.” Again I think that’s quite nicely put. If you’re looking for more handy phrases like these, check out our prior episode on the NYC Health system’s language use guide.
OK here is another strategic move they make that is handy. Because the numbers we’re dealing with are so big, the concepts so overarching and sometimes overwhelming, it’s easy to feel disconnected from some of them.
This course makes it real, so we can connect what we’re reading, connect these big issues to the actual experiences of actual people, with names. And they do this by having quotes from patients, some of these people are well known, and some are ordinary folks like you and me. Some have positive experiences to share, but many do not. And they paint a picture that is…infuriating, like I said before, chilling, not surprising. It helps us see our own connections to health inequalities.
I want to make sure we’re all embedding equity and intersectionality as we move forward.
And that we can be strategic in the ways we’re having these conversations across groups of people with varying degrees of willingness, or reluctance, to engage in these important topics. I’ve got an announcement coming soon on this very thing, so stay tuned. This has been “10 Minutes to Better Patient Communication” from Health Communication Partners. Audio engineering and music by Joe Liebel. I’m Dr. Anne Marie Liebel.