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Public Health in a Multicultural Environment Introduction and Rationale Key Content Areas Benefits and Values Scope and Elements Teaching Tools, Strategies, and Resources Suggested Strategies Key Success Factors Vignettes and Faculty Guidance Resources for the Module Series Resources for the Public Health Module Appendix A Appendix B References Acknowledgments About the NCCC Print Modules Home
Public Health in a Multicultural Environment


=Public health programs will play an increasingly important role in providing current and future public health researchers, leaders, and professionals with academic and practical preparation as well as continuing education required for multicultural environments.

The purpose of this module is to provide a rationale, frameworks, key content, and strategies related to multicultural health that can be incorporated into MCH training programs.

The module is designed to:
  1. Assist an array of interdisciplinary programs to prepare faculty, students, and practitioners for researching and practicing public health in multicultural environments
  2. Delineate the essential role of cultural and linguistic competency in meeting the needs and preferences of multicultural populations and in reducing racial and ethnic health disparities

Defining Public Health

The mission of public health is to "fulfill society's interest in assuring conditions in which people can be healthy."1 Public health carries out its mission through organized, interdisciplinary efforts that address the physical, mental, and environmental health concerns of communities and populations at risk for disease and injury. Its mission is achieved through the application of health promotion and disease prevention technologies and interventions designed to improve and enhance the quality of life.

Health promotion and disease prevention technologies encompass a broad array of functions and expertise, including the three core public health functions:

  • Assessing and monitoring the health of communities and populations at risk to identify health problems and priorities;
  • Ensuring that all populations have access to appropriate and cost-effective care, including health promotion and disease prevention services, and evaluation of the effectiveness of that care; and
  • Formulating public policies, in collaboration with community and government leaders, designed to solve identified local and national health problems and priorities.

This definition is particularly relevant for improving the health of multicultural populations as it addresses the key factors that influence their health. In addition, for purposes of this module, public health is inclusive of health care financing and delivery organizations, health coverage, and health and mental health care programs as they also contribute to the health and well-being of multicultural populations.

In many cases, those organizations provide some public health functions. Public health and MCH professionals are leaders and work in these areas in the public, private, and faith-based sectors and in a variety of settings such as governmental, community based, and university related.


The Future of Public Health, Institute of Medicine (IOM), 1988


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