Cultural Competence

Cultural competence describes the ability of an individual or organization to interact effectively with people of different cultures. To produce positive change, prevention practitioners must understand the cultural context of their target community, and have the willingness and skills to work within this context. This means drawing on community-based values, traditions, and customs, and working with knowledgeable persons of and from the community to plan, implement, and evaluate prevention activities.

Key principles of cultural and linguistic competence must be integrated into all steps of  SAMHSA’s Strategic Prevention Framework(link is external) in order to have an impact that is inclusive and sustainable. These principles include, but are not limited to:

  • Each group has unique cultural needs. Coalitions should acknowledge that several paths lead to the same goal.
  • Significant diversity exists within cultures. It is important to recognize that cultural groups are complex and diverse, and not to be viewed as a single entity.
  • The dominant culture serves people from diverse backgrounds in varying degrees. Coalitions must recognize that what works well for the dominant cultural group may not be successful with members of other cultural groups.
  • Culture is ever-present, and must be acknowledged as a predominant force in shaping behaviors, values, and institutions.
  • Inclusion of multiple perspectives is critical to the full engagement of all segments of the population, which enriches and benefits not only the subgroups, but the community as a whole.
  • Cultural competence is not limited to ethnicity, but includes age, gender, disability, sexual identity and other variables.

Excerpted from SPF: Cultural Cumpetence and Sustainability(link is external) by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Cultural Competence (link is external) by Health Resources in Action.

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