Studying Cultural and Social Factors

The culture and environment of minority communities play important roles in the prevention and emergence of health problems, and also in the way that individuals, families and communities respond to health issues.

One of the areas in which El Centro is developing knowledge is in the culture-related stressors (e.g., discrimination, immigration-related stress, financial difficulty) and culture-related values (e.g., spirituality, family-centeredness, traditional gender roles) that impact health behaviors, use of services, and treatment outcomes.

Part of this understanding is recognizing that minority communities have considerable strengths, not only vulnerabilities. There is protective power in cultural values and cultural identity, and also in the social support, resourcefulness, and informal help-seeking that we often see in minority communities. 

Understanding the impact of culture-related factors can help providers to deliver prevention and care in a way that is a good fit with the cultural environment and makes the most of existing strengths.  It is equally important to recognize that members of a minority group are not all alike and therefore we cannot have a “one size fits all” approach when working with individuals of a particular community.  Services are more effective when they take into account the impact of culture and the unique needs of individuals.