Cultural competence in prevention

Cultural competence in prevention

Cultural competence lies at the heart of all prevention. Effective prevention begins with understanding the community’s needs and studying its demographics and cultural intricacies. While race is a vital aspect of cultural competence, it is only one part. Culture has many facets such as race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, ability, religion, gender identity and sexual orientation.

Let’s assess the demographics in Wayne County (U.S. Census Bureau):

—15% of households do not own a computer and over 20% of homes do not have internet access.

—13.5% of people did not graduate high school.

—12.2% have no insurance.

—11.4% speak a language other than English in the home.

—9.9% live in poverty.

—9% have a disability.

—2.1% Hispanic or Latino, 1.8% two or more races, 1.6% African American, 1.1% Asian.

A foundation stone of cultural competence is understanding the difference between equality and equity: Equality means to have the same amount. For example, sales tax is the same no matter who is purchasing the item. Equity is giving more to those who need it. For instance, the Americans with Disabilities Act provides individuals in wheelchairs with easier access to public places by installing ramps.

Equity is non-negotiable when it comes to cultural competence. Providing everyone with the exact same resources does not account for those who have more barriers to overcome. Instead, people should have access to resources and services based on their specific needs.

What does all this have to do with prevention? Many of us know substance-use policies and enforcement disproportionately affect marginalized people groups.

For example, in the 1980s and '90s, tobacco companies specifically targeted the black community with their menthol cigarette ads, assuring them of the safety of their products. This sad history explains why many black individuals from that era ended up addicted to nicotine.

Our prevention coalition discusses how to reach a specific demographic in the area by thinking in terms of how to bring them to the table, not simply how to “help” them. Remember, no one knows how to reach a population better than a member of that same population. A common phrase people use to encapsulate this idea is “Nothing about us without us.”

No matter what outreach we are working on, cultural diversity should be at the forefront of our minds for the most targeted efforts, which involve actively seeking ways to connect with other cultures. Sometimes that means going to an event they are hosting.

Finally, be careful when asking questions. Often our inquiries are well-meaning, but we can unintentionally offend someone if we do not already have a strong bond with them. Build the relationship first before asking questions about their culture.

Kristie Skaggs is a coalition prevention specialist at OneEighty, part of the CIRCLE Coalition.

Loading next article...

End of content

No more pages to load