Discuss the importance of cultural competency in a healthcare setting; use the materials in theme 3 to develop your statement.
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Cultural Competency
IHS 2235 – Cross-cultural issues in tropical diseases
Module 1, Theme 3
Cultural Competency Defined
 “Cultural competence is a set of behaviors, attitudes, and
policies that come together in a continuum to enable a
health care system, agency, or individual rehabilitation
practitioner to function effectively in trans-cultural
interactions. In practice, cultural competence
acknowledges and incorporates, at all levels, the
importance of culture, the assessment of cross-cultural
relations, the need to be aware of the dynamics resulting
from cultural differences, the expansion of cultural
knowledge, and the adaptation of services to meet
culturally unique needs”. (Cross, Bazron, Dennis, and
Isaacs (1989)).
Additional Terms
 Cultural Sensitivity: The ability to be open to learning
about and accepting of different cultural groups.
 Multiculturalism: The recognition and acknowledgement
that society is pluralistic. In addition to the dominant
culture, there exists many other cultures based around
ethnicity, sexual orientation, geography, religion, gender,
and class.
The Basics of Competency
 Acknowledge the immense influence of culture.
 Assess cross-cultural relations and be vigilant
concerning the dynamics that result from cultural
differences.
 Expand our cultural knowledge and incorporate
this knowledge into our everyday practice.
 Adapt to diversity.
Continuum of Cultural
Competence
The Acquisition of Cultural
Competence
Acquiring cultural competence reduces the chance of
stereotyping:
 Begins with Awareness
 Grows with Knowledge
 Enhanced with Specific Skills
 Polished through Cross-Cultural Encounters
Acquiring Cultural
Competence
Ask yourself these questions:

Who are my patients, families, and co-workers?

How can I learn about them?

What are my beliefs about this group?
Acquire knowledge of the cultural values, beliefs and practices of your customers:

Ask questions.

Listen.

Account for language issues.

Be aware of communication styles.
Acquiring Cultural
Competency
Be sensitive to personal health beliefs and practices:
-Special foods, drinks, objects, or clothes
-Avoidance of certain foods, people, or places.
-Customary rituals or people used to treat the illness.
-Are illnesses treated at home or by a community member?
Acquiring Cultural
Competency
Be sensitive to language barriers:
-Does the patient speak your language?
-Consider literacy level.
-Use visual aids and demonstrate procedures.
-Check understanding.
-Is an interpreter necessary?
Acquiring Cultural
Competency
Consider Body Language:
-Eye contact
-Touching
-Personal Space
-Privacy/Modesty
Acquiring Cultural
Competency
Consider Religious/Spiritual Factors:
Are there sensitivities/beliefs associated with:
-Birth/ death
-Certain treatments
-Prayer and worship
-Food preparation, clothing, special objects, and gender
practices.
Acquiring Cultural
Competency
Other cultural factors to consider:
-Gender
-Wealth or social status
-Presence of a disability
-Sexual orientation
Advocating a Change
 Using an intersectional framework brings in the ignored
social locations to the conversation on, ultimately, how
all the intersections affect health.
 Intersectionality within each group:
 – Race and ethnicity
– Socioeconomic status – Geographic location
– Age
– Disability
– Etc.
Facilitating Communication
Across Cultural Boundaries
 Recognize differences
 Build your self-awareness
 Describe and identify, then interpret
 Don’t assume that your interpretation is correct
 Acknowledge any discomfort, hesitation or concern.
 Practice politically correct communication
 Don’t evaluate or judge
Health Disparity & Health
Equity
 Health disparity:
A particular type of health difference that is closely linked with social,
economic, and/or environmental disadvantage. Health disparities adversely
affect groups of people who have systematically experienced greater
obstacles to health based on racial or ethnic group; sexual orientation;
gender identity; geographic location; or other characteristics historically
linked to discrimination or exclusion (US DH&HS)
 Health equity:
Attainment of the highest level of health for all people. Achieving health
equity requires valuing everyone equally with focused and ongoing societal
efforts to address avoidable inequalities, historical and contemporary
injustices, and the elimination of health and health care disparities. (US
DH&HS)
Sources
 Cross, Bazron, Dennis, and Isaacs (1989)

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