Promoting Meaningful Access Through Education

CLAS and Joint Commision Resource Guide

Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS)

The Office of Minority Health, a division of the Dept. of Health and Human Services, formally adopted the CLAS standards in  March 2001. These standards are primarily directed at health care organizations; however, individual providers are also encouraged to use the standards to make their practices more culturally and linguistically accessible. The principles and activities of culturally and linguistically appropriate services should be integrated throughout an organization and undertaken in partnership with the communities being served.

The 14 standards are organized by themes:

    • Culturally Competent Care (Standards 1-3)
    • Language Access Services (Standards 4-7)
    • Organizational Supports for Cultural Competence (Standards 8-14).

Within this framework, there are three types of standards of varying stringency — mandates, guidelines, and recommendations as follows:

    • CLAS mandates are current Federal requirements for all recipients of Federal funds (Standards 4, 5, 6, and 7).
    • CLAS guidelines are activities recommended by OMH for adoption as mandates by Federal, State, and national accrediting agencies (Standards 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13).
    • CLAS recommendations are suggested by OMH for voluntary adoption by health care organizations (Standard 14).

List of 14 standards of CLAS – Office of Minority Health

Toolkits for collecting race and ethnicity – Health Research and Educational Trust

Strategies for addressing CLAS adherence – Underserved Quality Improvement Organization Support Center

The Joint Commission

The Joint Commission also recognizes the importance of culturally competent care.  Since 2004, the Joint Commission (formerly known as JCAHO) has been studying how hospitals face and address challenges of providing health care to diverse populations, with the purpose to better understand what the current state of practice is and develop recommendations.

The Joint Commission Website

Hospitals, Language and Culture Project (2002) – The Joint Commission



CLAS-talk is the email discussion group sponsored by Resources for Cross Cultural Health Care and the DiversityRx website ( Participants can raise issues, ask questions, share information and resources and network with each other around topics related to the design, delivery and evaluation of culturally and linguistically appropriate services (CLAS) in health care. You will also receive updates on new publications, policies and events related to CLAS.


    • Journal of Transcultural Nursing (Sage)
    • Transcultural Psychiatry (Sage)
    • Ethos (Berkeley)
    • Research in psychological anthropology and cross-cultural psychology.
    • Journal of Multicultural Nursing and Health  (Riley)
    • Cross Cultural Connection (Battaglia)
    • Medical Anthropology (Taylor & Francis)
    • Shaman’s Drum (Cross Cultural Shamanism Network)

Other Resources:

Archived web seminars available at Disparities Solution Center, Massachusetts General Hospital