Cultural Competence: A Look at the Research

Culture can be defined as the “customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group” or “the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time.” (Merriam-Webster) Our culture can influence how we experience health conditions and disabilities. It shapes the way we cope with adversity. It can influence whether we seek care and who we may turn to for support and help. Healthcare and service providers may support people with disabilities from cultures that are different from their own, particularly if their clients are from ethnic or racial minority groups. These providers may focus on providing “culturally competent” services and supports to their clients. According to Cultural Competence in Mental Health, published by the NIDILRR-funded Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Community Living and Integration for People with Psychiatric Disabilities (TU Collaborative), cultural competence is “the ability to relate effectively to individuals from various groups and backgrounds. Culturally competent services respond to the unique needs of members of minority populations and are also sensitive to the ways in which people with disabilities experience the world.”

In addition to the work of the TU Collaborative, other NIDILRR-funded projects are working in the area of cultural competence for service providers:

Parents Taking Action is a culturally competent educational program for Latinx parents of children with autism spectrum disorders. Parents Taking Action is delivered by community health educators who are themselves Latinx parents of children with autism. Learn more about the research behind Parents Taking Action in our Research In Focus series.

A Switzer grantee is developing a Cultural Family Intervention After Brain Injury (CFIaBI) for African Americans. This intervention was created with input from African American families who have lived experience with traumatic brain injury (TBI). When complete, it will improve community integration of TBI survivors who are African American while also increasing emotional well-being for caregivers.

Cultural competence isn’t a new topic for the NIDILRR community:

In 2001, the Center for International Rehabilitation Research Information and Exchange (CIRRIE) developed a 13-volume monograph series, The Rehabilitation Provider’s Guide to Cultures of the Foreign-Born. The series was designed to give rehabilitation providers insight into the cultures of individuals they might encounter. While CIRRIE has completed its funded activities, the series is still available to download and share.

In 2003, the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Pathways to Positive Futures examined issues of cultural competence in mental health in its Focal Point journals on Cultural Competence, Strengths, and Outcomes and Assessing and Addressing Cultural Competence.

Explore even more research in cultural competence through these links to our REHABDATA database. Each link will take you to a list of abstracts for publications available through our document delivery service or online through the publishers.

Cultural competence research from NIDILRR-funded projects.

Cultural competence research from other sources.

If you are interested in this topic, or in identifying current grantees working in this or other areas, please contact our information specialists for assistance in searching NARIC’s databases.

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