Why Use the Term “Cultural Humility”?

Beth Averbeck, MD; Associate Medical Director for Primary Care, HealthPartners

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Learning Objectives: At the end of this activity, you will be able to:
  • Define “cultural humility,” including how the meaning is different from “cultural competence.”
  • Discuss steps that organizations and providers can take to develop cultural humility.
Description: Terms change fast in health care. Providers once described their efforts to treat patients from all cultural backgrounds as developing “cultural competence.” These days, many organizations are moving to a new term: “cultural humility.” What do these terms mean, and why the switch?
Beth Averbeck, MD, Associate Medical Director for Primary Care at HealthPartners in Minnesota, explains why her organization speaks of and practices cultural humility, and how other organizations can do the same.
Discussion Questions:
  1. Have you heard the terms “cultural competence” or “cultural humility” before? In what context? What do they mean to you?
  2. How do you try to incorporate cultural humility into your work with patients or with colleagues? What tactics have you tried, and what were the results?
  3. What are some of the cultural influences that affect your beliefs and behavior? How might you be aware of them when working with others?
  4. Have you ever developed a partnership with a patient or a colleague from another culture? What made you partners? Discuss the experience.
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