As an African woman who immigrated to the United States in the 1970s, I have experienced firsthand the challenges that come with navigating a new culture and healthcare system. While I am grateful for the opportunities that the US has provided me, I have also seen the ways in which cultural differences can impact the quality of healthcare that individuals receive. That is why I am passionate about the importance of cultural competency and cultural humility in holistic wellness and healthcare.
Cultural competency is the ability of healthcare providers to understand and respect the beliefs, values, and practices of patients from diverse cultural backgrounds. It involves recognizing that cultural differences can impact a patient's health beliefs, behaviors, and outcomes, and adapting care to meet the needs of each individual. Cultural humility, on the other hand, involves a lifelong commitment to self-reflection and learning, recognizing that no one can ever fully understand another person's culture and experiences.
The US Department of Minority Health has identified numerous health disparities that exist among different cultural groups. For example, African Americans and Hispanics have higher rates of obesity, diabetes, and hypertension than non-Hispanic Whites. Additionally, African American women have higher rates of maternal mortality and infant mortality than women of other racial/ethnic groups. These disparities are largely due to social determinants of health, such as poverty, limited access to healthcare, and discrimination.
Ayurvedic medicine, which originated in India over 5,000 years ago, also emphasizes the importance of understanding a client’s unique constitution and lifestyle factors in promoting health and preventing disease. Ayurveda recognizes that each person has a unique mind-body constitution, or dosha, which impacts their health and wellbeing. By understanding a patient's dosha, an Ayurvedic practitioner can tailor treatments and lifestyle recommendations to meet their specific needs.
However, it is important for Ayurvedic practitioners of all levels to also recognize the impact of cultural differences on health and wellness. For example, diet and nutrition recommendations that may be appropriate for a client in India may not be feasible or desirable for a client living in the US. Additionally, cultural beliefs and practices around childbirth, menstruation, and aging may impact the care that is needed.
There are many resources available to help educate Ayurvedic practitioners about the impact of being culturally competent. The National Ayurvedic Medical Association offers trainings that include cultural competency and diversity education. Think Cultural Health is an Office of Minority Health (OMH) initiative that provides health and health care professionals with information, continuing education opportunities, and resources to learn about and implement CLAS and the National CLAS Standards.
Here are some articles that can be found at: https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=2&lvlid=53
Arthur Kleinman's Eight Questions
CLAS, Cultural Competency, And Cultural Humility
Combating Implicit Bias And Stereotypes
Effective Cross-Cultural Communications Skills
How To Better Understand Different Social Identities
Working Effectively With An Interpreter
In conclusion, as an African woman immigrant to the US during the 1970s, I have seen firsthand the importance of cultural competency and cultural humility in holistic wellness and healthcare. By recognizing and respecting cultural differences, healthcare providers as a whole can provide more effective, client-centered care that meets the unique needs of each individual. As varying levels of Ayurvedic practitioners we can also benefit from incorporating cultural competency into our practice, in order to provide the most effective and appropriate care for our clients. Let us work together to create a robust healthcare system that is truly inclusive and equitable for all.
Kadiatou Sibi, CAP, AWE
NAMA Board Certified Ayurvedic Medicine Practitioner and Wellness Educator, Reiki Practitioner
NAMA DE&I Committee, Cultural Organization Lead