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Cultural Competency Training and Education in the University-based Professional Training of Health Professionals: Characteristics, Quality and Outcomes of Evaluations

Cultural competence in health care is designed to ensure that health professionals are able to provide quality health care to culturally and ethnically diverse populations. Cultural competence can be effective for improving health professionals’ knowledge, attitudes and skills and patient satisfaction. The impact of cultural competence education and training included in university-based professional training of health professionals is relatively unclear. This study aims to describe the characteristics and assess the methodological quality of published evaluations of cultural competence education and training interventions targeting university based health professionals in training. A systematic search of the cultural competence literature identified 16 published evaluations of cultural competence education and training interventions included in university based professional training of health professionals. Information on the characteristics and methodological quality of included studies was extracted using standardized assessment tools. Nine studies evaluated the integration of cultural competence into health or medical curriculum, four evaluated a cultural immersion experience, and three evaluated cultural awareness education and training. Positive outcomes commonly reported were improvements in students’ knowledge of cultural competence and attitudes towards Indigenous and culturally diverse peoples. The methodological quality of evaluations and the reporting of key methodological criteria were variable. Eleven studies conducted a quantitative and five studies a qualitative evaluation. Strengths of quantitative evaluations included adequate study designs and valid and reliable measurement instruments. Selection bias and poor attrition were the main limitations of quantitative evaluations. Qualitative evaluations were adequate on most methodological criteria but the reporting of ethical and some methodological issues was less than adequate. There is insufficient evidence to provide a strong basis for recommending the inclusion of specific cultural competence education and training strategies in the professional training of university based health professionals. Future evaluations should compare similar types of strategies, and extend their measurement of outcomes beyond those relating to the knowledge, attitudes and skills of health professionals, to those relating to health care outcomes of ethnically diverse peoples.


Anton Clifford, Janya Mc Calman, Crystal Jongen, Rox Bainbridge

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