Being culturally aware

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Although culture can be a major influence on families’ health behaviours, specific cultural knowledge isn’t always necessary when addressing weight issues. As long as you recognise and are willing to explore the social, cultural and linguistic needs of the families you are working with, you can improve quality of care and health outcomes for those families.

Below are some steps you can take to support families from different cultures:

  • Learn about the main cultures in your area, especially health beliefs and practices that might impact on dietary and physical activity behaviours.  This might be through reading, professional development activities or talking to others. 
  • Avoid stereotypical assumptions about cultures.  Become aware of any biases or prejudices you may have and don’t let these interfere with the service you provide.
  • Come from the family’s perspective.   See yourself as a facilitator – your role is not to impose dietary and physical activity advice from your own cultural perspective, but to support families to come up with solutions that fit within their cultural practices.  
  • Show an interest and don’t be afraid to ask!  Use the communication skills covered in the (communicating with parents about child weight module) to find out about the family, how their life works and what works for them.
    • E.g. ask open-ended questions, listen to the parent's needs and summarise to ensure you have correctly understood what they have told you.
  • Adjust your language to the knowledge and understanding of the family (or any interpreters you are working with). Using visual resources such as infographics or images might help explain concepts to individuals with limited fluency in English. 

What is culture? The values, beliefs, norms, patterns and practices of a particular group that are learned and shared by individuals and passed from generation to generation.

What is race? The biological term that distinguishes humans by physical traits.                                 

What is ethnicity? The connection of a set of individuals who share a unique social, cultural and linguistic heritage.