5-Minute MCH: Module 7.1

5-Minute MCH: Module 7.1

Cultural Competency

Module 7.1: 5-Minute Introduction

In this module we provide some background on the competency as well as context and information about our learning activities via a video podcast (see below). We also provide a context for you to Learn more about the competency and to start a conversation, so please Comment on what you have learned and Interact with others who have commented as well.

Download a PDF of the Presentation Slides.


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.

Knowledge Areas

MCH leaders will demonstrate a working knowledge of:

  • The influence of conscious and unconscious (implicit) bias and assumptions on individuals and organizations.
  • How linguistic competence requires organizational and provider capacity to respond effectively to the health literacy needs of populations served.
  • How ability, age, class, race, sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation impact health.
  • How multiple social and cultural disparities influence health and access to health care services.
  • The impact of culturally competent health care practices on individuals’ access to health services, participation in health promotion and prevention programs, adherence to treatment plans, and overall health outcomes.


Foundational. At a foundational level, MCH leaders will:

  1. Conduct personal and/or organizational self-assessments regarding cultural competence.
  2. Assess, without making assumptions, the strengths and needs of individuals and communities based on sensitivity to, and respect for, their diverse backgrounds, and and respond appropriately.
  3. Incorporate an understanding and appreciation of differences in experiences and perspectives into professional behaviors and attitudes while maintaining an awareness of the potential for implicit bias.

Advanced. Building on the foundational skills, MCH leaders will:

  1. Modify systems to meet the specific needs of a group, family, community, or population.
  2. Employ strategies to assure culturally-sensitive public health and health service delivery systems.
  3. Integrate cultural competency into programs, research, scholarship, and policies.
  4. Use data-driven tools to guide efforts toward health equity.


Comment on the Presentation...

You can share your perspective on this competency with others in the field by entering your comments here. Tell us how you have personally applied this competency in your daily work, ask questions about the competency, or suggest additional trainings that can be used by others to support learning in this competency.

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If you can't see/access the form above, please email your comments to mchnavigator@ncemch.org.


See What Others are Saying...

  • "I'm looking forward to a new year of learning, and especially this topic. Would like to see how to really incorporate cultural and linguistic competency into our program in a meaningful manner."
  • "Broad topic with many skill sets needed. We must remember that it's all a journey and that we must continue to learn to be current with the most recent understandings of culture, language, class, and populations."


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 $180,000/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.