National Center for Cultural Competence
Main Navigation
Cultural Awareness

VI. Cultural Identity and Cultural Clustering in Communities and Organizations:
     Implications for the Health and Mental Health Professional

=Traditionally and continuing into the present, immigrants and refugees have tended to settle in geographically distinct sections of urban areas. Such practices are completely understandable given the support and identity functions of people’s cultures.

Enclaves provide immigrants and refugees the comfort of being near people who share their values, norms of behavior, and language. Such cultural concentrations have been given such names as “Chinatown,” “Little Italy,” or “Little Saigon.” Often one or several of such cultural enclaves can be found within the catchment area of a clinic, hospital, or health plan.

Rather than viewing these communities as made up of persons who resist acculturation to the language and culture of the larger society, they can be seen as protective of individuals in the cultural group, buffering the effects of the “culture shock” that comes with entering a new society. These communities are health sustaining, because they function to prevent the debilitating effects of marginalization.

A culturally aware health and mental health care professional, seeking to give effective and appropriate care to all patients and clients, will see these communities as important resources and aids to cross-cultural understanding.

Not all cultural communities are formed willingly, however. Some communities in the U.S. have been formed by various types of coercion. Discriminatory housing policies and poverty have created barrios, ghettos, and slums. Moreover, indigenous peoples were forced onto reservations.

Cultural awareness requires that policy makers and planners as well as service providers understand the historical basis for cultural group clustering in their catchment areas, whether it is the result of choice, coercion, or a combination of both. Such understandings are necessary if health and mental health care organizations are to engage effectively in cooperative planning with the cultural groups who they hope will be satisfied consumers of care.

Previous
Next

Contact Information: Phone (202) 687-5503 or (800) 788-2066; TTY: (202) 687-8899; 3300 Whitehaven Street, NW, Suite 3000 Washington, DC 20007-2401 Accessibility Copyright Georgetown University e-mail: cultural@georgetown.edu
Additional Info FAQs Glossary Resources Search Site Map National Center for Cultural Competence Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development Home Cultural Awareness: Introduction and Rationale About the NCCC Print Modules Cultural Awareness: Introduction and Rationale Key Content Areas; What is Culture? How Do Human Beings Acquire Culture What culture is not Cultural identity and cultural clustering Culture and race in the epidemiology of disease Culture and personal identity Cultural awarenss and professional effectiveness Teaching Tools, Strategies, and Resources: Awareness, Knowledge, and Skills Case Studies Self-Discovery Exercises Teaching Tools Definitions Resources for Module Resources for the series References Acknowledgments Home