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Strategies for Working With Multicultural Training Groups

Many public and private health-related organizations are struggling to understand what cultural competence means and what they need to do to be culturally competent. Cultural competence is a complex issue that trainers need to consider.

Ensuring Cultural Competence

To be effective, trainers must be aware of cultural issues that can affect the training environment. Culture can influence people’s values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. Culture, therefore, has an impact on how people learn, communicate, make decisions and interact within groups. Many people think of culture simply as a person’s race or ethnicity. However, culture includes many different aspects of people’s lives. People’s cultural background may be influenced by their:

  • Race/ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Regional differences
  • Language
  • Sexual orientation
  • Level of formal education
  • Profession or job
  • Spiritual beliefs and practices
  • Physical ability
  • Age

When working with multicultural groups, keep in mind that although people from a specific cultural group may share common traits, all members of a cultural group are not alike. Individuals within cultural groups have their own personal experiences, personality traits, values and belief systems. It is important to respond to people’s needs and not assume that people will respond in a certain way because they belong to a particular cultural group.

If you train health professionals, keep in mind that there is a culture of medicine as well. People who work in health care have a common language and view of health and illness. These views may or may not be shared by community and patient groups.

When training audiences that are made up of both health professionals and others who do not work in health care, make sure that acronyms, medical jargon or other abstract concepts are not used unless they are well explained.

Also, it is important to be alert for biases and assumptions that health professionals may share, but which may conflict with community members’ cultural values, attitudes and beliefs.