Perceptions of health and social care

BME communities’ understanding of health and social care may vary from one culture to another. 

Many factors are linked to people’s cultural perspectives, including:

  • ethnicity and place of origin
  • education
  • religion
  • values
  • gender
  • age
  • family 
  • social status

For refugees and asylum-seekers it may also include personal refugee experiences and length of stay both in the person’s country of origin and in the UK.

Contact with professionals 

How members of BME communities communicate with health and social care professionals may be influenced by culture and beliefs. Different communities may require different approaches to meet similar needs. 

Culturally sensitive ways of enabling people to access services are needed and some services may need to adapt provision to meet the needs of particular communities.

Cultural competence

By developing improved cultural competence, health and social care professionals can support access and respond better to the health and social care needs of people from BME communities. 

A major challenge facing health and social care workers is to understand how ethnic differences affect the perception of illness and the intimate personal interactions necessary for delivering excellent health and social care.

Personalised approach 

Health related behaviour is culture dependent. How, when, and what people present to practitioners will be greatly influenced by present and prior cultural situations and expectations. 

It is important to be flexible and to modify professional actions to be more culturally appropriate. Practitioners need to be aware of assumptions, stereotyping and interpretations and to work with a person and their family on their own terms.

The preceding information is adapted from the Cultural competence page of The Children’s Society’s Refugee Toolkit

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