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5-Minute MCH: Module 7.0

5-Minute MCH: Module 7.0

Cultural Competency

Module 7.0: Overview

Cultural competence is a developmental process that occurs along a continuum and evolves over an extended period. It broadly represents knowledge and skills necessary to communicate and interact effectively with people regardless of differences, helping to ensure that the needs of all people and communities are met in a respectful and responsive way in an effort to decrease health disparities and lead to health equity. Becoming culturally competent is an ongoing and fluid process.

Health equity exists when challenges and barriers have been removed for those groups who experience greater obstacles to health based on their racial or ethnic group; religion; socioeconomic status; gender; sexual orientation or gender identity; age; mental health; cognitive, sensory, or physical disability; geographic location; or other characteristics historically linked to discrimination or exclusion.

Cultural competence is “a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, or amongst professionals and enables that system, agency, or those professionals to work effectively in cross-cultural situations.” 3

Culture refers to integrated patterns of human behavior that include the actions, beliefs, communication, customs, institutions, language and literacy (including health literacy and language proficiency), thoughts, and values held by groups while recognizing that individuals are often part of more than one cultural group. 

Competence requires having the capacity to function effectively and communicate clearly and in a linguistically appropriate manner as a professional and an organization within the context of the cultural beliefs, behaviors, and needs presented by individuals and communities. 4

MCH professionals exhibit cultural (including linguistic) competence through interpersonal interactions and through the design of interventions, programs, and research studies that recognize, respect, and address differences. These differences can include experiences and perspectives related to abilities (physical and mental), age, culture, education, ethnicity, gender identity, geography, historical experiences, language and literacy, profession, race, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and values.


Please take a moment to tell us how you would rate your knowledge and skills in this competency by:

  • Taking this 2-Question Survey AND/OR
  • Taking the comprehensive online Self-Assessment to more thoroughly identify your strengths and areas for growth.


Each module below examines the competency as part of a learning process. You can use these modules sequentially or choose those of most relevance to your needs:

If you experience any technical difficulties with any page in the 5-Minute MCH Program, please email us.


3 Cross, T., Bazron, B., Dennis, K., & Isaacs, M. (1989). Towards A Culturally Competent System of Care, Volume I. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Child Development Center, CASSP Technical Assistance Center.

4 Adapted from National Center for Cultural Competence, Conceptual Frameworks.

This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number UE8MC25742; MCH Navigator for $225,000/year. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.