Building Cultural Competence in Health and Social Services

About Cultural Competency


Cultural and linguistic competence is a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, or among professionals that enables effective work in cross-cultural situations. ‘Culture’ refers to integrated patterns of human behavior that include the language, thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, and institutions of racial, ethnic, religious, or social groups. ‘Competence’ implies having the capacity to function effectively as an individual and an organization within the context of the cultural beliefs, behaviors, and needs presented by consumers and their communities. (Adapted from Cross, 1989).


CCHCP approaches the issue of cultural competence from a unique perspective which acknowledges its complex, systemic nature. CCHCP’s approach places culture within the context of an interwoven network of relationships–between language and tradition, tradition and ethnicity, ethnicity and gender, gender identity and sexual orientation, and the many areas where differences intersect. Consequently, the work of CCHCP has substantively differed from that of most organizations in the field that tend to deal only with pieces of the puzzle of cultural competence.

Why Cultural competency?


Changing Demographics
Demographics shift, over time, both inside and outside of an organization which impacts interpersonal relationships; the foundation of successful service to clients/patients.

Health Disparities
Some demographic groups have poorer, correctable, health outcomes than their counterparts of a different demographic.

Mandates and Regulations
Governmental, regulatory and accreditation agencies are becoming more rigorous in how they hold organizations accountable for the funds and resources spent on serving the public.

Business Imperative
Diversified workforces correlated with creative and economic value. Institutions benefit when their clients and staff have a positive sense of identity and wellbeing.


Because we know that a well-informed institution, with trained workforce members, will be prepared to recognize when its attitudes and beliefs might lead to exclusionary practices, CCHCP offers comprehensive programs that guide health and human services agencies toward cultural competence.

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Some of the Experts:


“Cultural competence is a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system or agency or among professionals that enable effective interactions in a cross-cultural framework.”

Terry Cross, PhD


“To be culturally competent doesn’t mean you are an authority in the values and beliefs of every culture. What it means is that you hold a deep respect for cultural differences and are eager to learn, and willing to accept, that there are many ways of viewing the world.”

Okokon O. Udo, PhD


“Cultural Competency is the ability of individuals and systems to respond respectfully and effectively to people of all cultures, classes, races, ethnic backgrounds and religions in a manner that recognizes, affirms, and values the cultural differences and similarities and the worth of individuals, families, and communities and protects and preserves the dignity of each.”

Seattle-King County Public Health