The NCCAOM and ASA Acupuncture Medicine Cultural Competency Task Force (AMCCTF), co-chaired by Afua Bromley, MSOM, LicAc, Dipl Ac (NCCAOM), NCCAOM immediate past chair and LiMing Tseng, MAcOM, LicAc, Dipl OM (NCCAOM), ASA Board Member at Large, was formed to help guide acupuncture medicine stakeholders (institutions, teachers, practitioners, students, vendors, and other stakeholders) to identify and address racism, discrimination, and biases in our profession, so that we may be more effective practitioners, more respectful peers, more inclusive institutions, and more enlightened students.
The AMCCTF strives to support this purpose through the following means:
- Cultural Competency Framework – Providing resources and an assessment tool on guiding principles and education in the area for cultural competency within the institutions of Acupuncture Medicine.
- Inclusive Educational Practices – Encourage institutions/stakeholders to recognize the gaps in training to make curricula more inclusive.
- Implicit Bias Awareness – Encourage stakeholders to recognize the effects of inappropriate language and actions that can contribute to ongoing healthcare disparities leading to negative outcomes with patient safety and efficacy of treatment.
- Health Disparity Education – Creating a resource guide to help stakeholders understand the origin of healthcare disparities due to oppression and discrimination based on race and ethnicity, language, immigration and refugee status, geographic location, religion and spirituality, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, social class, and abilities.
Cultural competence in healthcare refers to the “ability of practitioners and institutions to provide care to patients with diverse language, thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, abilities from diverse racial, ethnic, religious, or social groups.” 
One example of cultural competency was demonstrated on September 17th, 2020, when the US House of Representatives passed Resolution 908 to denounce anti-Asian sentiments that have been prevalent since the beginning of COVID-19 outbreak. This resolution, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), states that the House of Representatives condemns all manifestations of expressions of racism, xenophobia, discrimination, anti-Asian sentiment, scapegoating, and ethnic or religious intolerance.
Being culturally competent requires behaviors, attitudes, and policies that support effective interactions in cross-cultural situations. The need for cultural competency, the elimination of bias, and the promotion of health equity (accessibility and more equitable treatment) are essential to eradicate healthcare disparities in the United States. The ability of a practitioner to effectively communicate with a patient is directly tied to both safety and efficacy of treatment. A practitioner who is knowingly or unwittingly ignorant can and often will make errors or create circumstances in which a patient’s needs are not met. This can be ignorance of religious customs (e.g. a diabetic patient who is Muslim during Ramadan will need different recommendations for maintenance of blood sugar) or ignorance as to a lack of available resources (the prevalence of “food deserts” in cities). Specifically, in the arena of pain management, recent research also reveals that “a substantial number of white laypeople and medical students and residents hold false beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whites and demonstrates that these beliefs predict racial bias in pain perception and treatment recommendation accuracy”. 
Patient safety events that can result from the failure to address culture, language, and health literacy include diagnostics errors, missed screenings, unexpected negative responses to medication, harmful treatment interactions from simultaneous use of traditional medicines, healthcare-associated infections, adverse birth outcomes, inappropriate care transitions, and inadequate patient adherence to provider recommendations and follow-up visits.
Systemic problems require individual and collective actions – individual practitioners and the institutions and organizations that train and support them work actively to eradicate any behavior that further perpetuates ongoing healthcare disparities.
Please join the AMCCTF for Acupuncture Medicine Day: A Celebration of Diversity & Community in Acupuncture on October 24, 2020 (11 AM EDT to 4:30 PM EDT). This online event is comprised of four discussion panels on the topics of cultural appreciation/appropriation, local outreach programs for the underserved, global outreach programs, and cultural celebrations in acupuncture medicine. www.AcupunctureMedicineDay.org
- Health Research & Educational Trust. (2013, June). Becoming a culturally competent health care organization. Chicago, IL: Illinois. Health Research & Educational Trust Accessed at www.hpoe.org
- Brach C, Fraser I. Reducing disparities through culturally competent health care: An analysis of the business case. Qual Manag Health Care. 2002;10(4):15-28
- Hoffman K, Trawalter S, Axt J, Oliver, M. Racial bias in pain assessment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2016; 113 (16) 4296-4301; DOI:10.1073/pnas.1516047113