Why is Cultural Competency Important?
“The fundamental nature of human potential is the ability to acquire learned habits throughout life, persistently modifying behaviour in response to environmental influences.”
With growing ethnic diversity in New Zealand, clinicians are increasingly faced with the challenges of culturally complex presentations in mental health. Conducting culturally appropriate assessments, diagnoses and interventions relies on an understanding of how cultural practices and beliefs affect presentations, engagement and interventions. Regardless of the professional discipline or the type of service, clinicians need to determine whether or not a person is suffering from a mental illness, and if so, to ensure effective treatment. Approaching mental health in the context of the client’s culture is critical to this outcome.
Why is cultural competency important?
- Cultural competency improves patient care.
- Ethnicity and language have a substantial impact on practitioner-client relationships.
- A poor diagnosis due to lack of cultural understanding can have significant consequences for clients/families.
- Misunderstandings and a lack of knowledge about traditional cultural perspectives on mental health may leave CALD clients socially isolated and without appropriate support.
- Traditional cultures regard mental health in varied ways. In many, cultural and religious perspectives and practices differ significantly from Western biomedical and biopsychosocial models.
- The Health Practitioners Competence Assurance (HPCA) Act 2003, includes a requirement for registration bodies to develop standards of cultural competence and for practitioners to meet those standards.
Clinicians play a critical role in facilitating appropriate access, services and support for their CALD clients. Cultural awareness, knowledge and sensitivity will improve the practitioner’s effectiveness in working in this field.