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Respecting Everyone’s Diverse Background and Experiences

The exercising of academic freedom to self-determine one’s own learning experience serves to respect the diversity of our students/trainees’ backgrounds and experiences, while striving to teach/train them to, in turn, effectively do the same: respect the diversity of their clients/patients/research participants’ backgrounds and experiences. Promoting respect for diversity and cultural sensitivity/competence is seen as consistent with the goal of teaching/training participants how to deliver health care services/interventions, and engage in research/scholarship that will reduce/eliminate health disparities.

The Goal of Also Promoting Cultural Sensitivity and Competence in All Health Communications

The RGDH promotes not only respect for diversity, but also cultural sensitivity and cultural competence through the education/training we provide. The knowledge disseminated is seen as promoting the process of acquiring the attitudes/beliefs and skills inherent in respect for diversity, cultural sensitivity and competence, including multicultural competence. This skill set means being able to engage in health communication with the many diverse groups impacted by health inequities and disparities. Key to ascertaining information from, interacting with, communicating with, and designing interventions for diverse individuals/groups is the following: an ability to enter the world view of another by listening empathically, as just one basic step. Cultural sensitivity involves possessing the understanding that when encountering and being exposed to diverse individuals/groups it is important to suspend all prior assumptions (socially learned cognitions, stereotypes, media messages, mis-education, etc…) stemming from our personal background and experiences; we then face the challenge of consistently exercising this cultural sensitivity while listening empathically and learning more and more about a multitude of diverse persons’ backgrounds and experiences, while also striving to have acceptance and respect. Cultural competence results from acquiring a body of experience in engaging in this task, as we emerge being able to routinely and with skill engage a variety of diverse persons with genuine empathy, acceptance, and respect.

While only a brief suggestive overview of that which the Certificate in Health Disparity Reduction program seeks to impart, this process also involves the acquisition and exercise of empathy, respect, acceptance, cultural sensitivity, and cultural competence; these are all central to the task of being able to engage in culturally appropriate health care delivery and health disparity reduction research/practice/intervention/scholarship. In today’s global community, such a skill set is seen as absolutely central to effective health communications, patient-provider, and client-counselor relations, as well as overall efforts to research and address health disparities. This suggests the importance of some time being devoted to practical exercises to support skill acquisition.