Habla Espanol? Are You Missing Out on the Multicultural Opportunity?

As the population of the United States continues to become more diverse, disparities in healthcare have become more prevalent. Large segments of the population in key urban areas have neither adequate access to care nor the benefits of basic medical treatment to address even the more common health issues such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, or obesity. While many assume lack of insurance coverage among minorities is responsible for this unequal distribution in healthcare, the real culprits are the medical community’s ignorance of culturally based health practices and the apathy with which it addresses adherence to healthcare cultural competency mandates.

While hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and healthcare insurance providers have adopted programs to address multicultural audiences, they rarely allocate the depth of resources or the time required for success. In fact, although multicultural healthcare marketing efforts have grown over the past 5 years, the investment in this area represents a paltry 2% of total DTC marketing budget. Sure, it takes time, energy, and effort to implement programs to address multicultural health issues; however, once a company does engage this burgeoning audience, it sees positive impacts on its bottom line as ethnic scripts increase. As healthcare communications experts, it is our responsibility to educate our clients on how “multicultural medicine” impacts their businesses and to give them the tools to successfully navigate this area. Below are two key questions to gauge whether your clients are prepared to embrace the multicultural challenge.

Do your clients embrace the notion of “cultural competence”?
Cultural competence is the ability of systems to provide care to patients with diverse values, beliefs, and behaviors, including tailoring delivery to meet patients’ social, cultural, and linguistic needs. At the most basic level, for a pharmaceutical company this implies providing drug information in different languages and call centers manned with multilingual operators to answer questions. While hospitals, physicians, and pharmacists may have adopted cultural competency initiatives (eg, providing interpreters or developing relationships with community associations who outreach to local minorities), pharmaceutical companies have been slow to provide tools and materials to assist in their efforts to address multicultural patients.

Do your clients have cultural awareness task forces?
A cultural awareness task force is a multidisciplinary group made up of marketing, analytics, research, and corporate communications personnel dedicated to building a business case to support a multicultural program and open to adapting current mainstream marketing and public relations efforts to address multicultural sensitivities. For multicultural efforts to work, it is imperative that this group holds authority and accepts responsibility for educating the organization internally on the multicultural imperative.

Sources: Medical Marketing & Media. May 2010; Betancourt JR, Green AR, Carrillo JE. Cultural Competence in Health Care: Emerging Frameworks and Practical Approaches. The Commonwealth Fund; October 2002.

About Havas Worldwide Health
Havas Worldwide Health owns the Euro RSCG Life and Health4Brands (H4B) networks. The Havas Worldwide Health network has a uniquely unified model with all disciplines—medical, strategy, managed markets, medical education, digital, DTP/DTC, advertising, and PR—inside one agency, with one P&L. This allows us to deliver channel-agnostic solutions that are right for our clients’ brands without the traditional silos and intra-agency complexities. Also, with more than 2000 employees in 60 agencies in over 50 countries, Havas Worldwide Health has a presence in all the major regions and markets. Havas Worldwide Health is the global health holding company within Havas Worldwide (Euronext Paris: HAV.PA), a global advertising and communications services group headquartered in Paris.