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Cultural Competency

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					Cultural Competency

With the majority of uninsured children of minority racial/ethnic backgrounds and the
majority of uninsured children at or below 200% of the poverty level, cultural
competency is a necessity in establishing the rapport and trust with families to ensure
that their children will be enrolled and will utilize their coverage. It is inevitable to
encounter people of different cultures and circumstances than your own in outreach
situations.

Defining culture. Culture includes the externally things such as music, art, and dress,
but is also rooted in beliefs, traditions, language, that connect a group of people. It is a
body of learned beliefs, traditions, and guides for behavior that are shared among
members of a particular group, (NCFH PowerPoint), and can include language, family
and kin relationships, social norms and rules, religion and spirituality, economic values
and concerns, shared history or oppression, and health beliefs and behaviors.

Cultural and self awareness. While it is impossible for anyone to be comfortable
with navigating the subtleties of all cultures, it is important for you to have awareness of
the communities you are serving, as well as of your own culture and background. By
knowing what some of the majority and minority cultures are within your community,
you can be better prepare your outreach style and materials and connect with
resources available for people of various cultural populations. Considering your own
cultural identity, personal experiences, beliefs and biases can help you understand your
motivations of your actions. It is important to be open to asking questions and also open
to others asking you questions, to help ensure the families you work with are
comfortable.

Advocacy. Positive experiences that families may have while working with an outreach
specialist can not only impact a family’s health, but that family and their community’s
perception of, and willingness to utilize, your organization and the systems of resources
provided to that community. Therefore, advocacy for the families you serve is a
necessity in building trust, particularly to those who may have experienced
misunderstandings, discrimination, or lack of access to services due to cultural and/or
language differences. Advocating for a child or family may be on the small scale, through
ensuring that the families are receiving fair and equal treatment and services, or on a
larger scale to deal with any recurring discrimination or problems. Advocacy is often
most effective through collaboration, with each outreach specialist raising concerns on
behalf of the families and working toward solutions with area agencies with similar goals.

Language. Language is a significant component of culture; and therefore, it is important
to be prepared with tools to help you work with families who are most comfortable
using a language other than English. Research which languages are the most commonly
used in your community, and gather resources, including in-person and phone
interpreting services, translated written literature, and local organizations serving the
population. Make sure that the services you utilize comply with HIPAA. See the
Resources section for more information on translation services and organizations in
Michigan.

Using an interpreter. When determining whether or not an interpreter is needed,
ask the parent if he/she would be most comfortable using an interpreter or speaking
English, emphasizing that an interpreter would not be of charge to the parent. When
utilizing an interpreter in person, be sure to speak directly to the client, and not to the
interpreter, and allow breaks for the interpreter to translate, avoiding long and
complicated phrases. Avoid jargon or slang both in interactions using an interpreter and
in situations without.

Written Materials. When creating any written materials, it is important to regard the
possible literacy levels of the audience, by writing at or below the 6th grade level, using
one- or two-syllable words and using short paragraphs. It is particularly important to
write in this way when your materials will be translated, to minimize errors and also to
make the materials accessible to as many people as possible, regardless of their literacy
levels. Whenever it is possible, make sure to have your translated document proofread
by someone else who reads the language, to ensure accuracy of the message.

				
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posted:10/11/2011
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