International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy

, Volume 36, Issue 5, pp 922–932 | Cite as

A culturally competent education program to increase understanding about medicines among ethnic minorities

  • Lourdes Cantarero-ArévaloEmail author
  • Dumoue Kassem
  • Janine Marie Traulsen
Research Article


Background It has been previously suggested that the risk of medicine-related problems—i.e., negative clinical outcomes, adverse drug reactions or adverse drug events resulting from the use (or lack of use) of medicines, and human error including that caused by healthcare personnel—is higher among specific ethnic minority groups compared to the majority population. Objective The focus of this study was on reducing medicine-related problems among Arabic-speaking ethnic minorities living in Denmark. The aim was twofold: (1) to explore the perceptions, barriers and needs of Arabic-speaking ethnic minorities regarding medicine use, and (2) to use an education program to enhance the knowledge and competencies of the ethnic minorities about the appropriate use of medicines. Settings Healthcare in Denmark is a tax-financed public service that provides free access to hospitals and general practitioners. In contrast to the USA or the UK, serving ethnically diverse populations is still a relatively new phenomenon for the Danish healthcare system. Ethnic minorities with a non-Western background comprised a total of 6.9 % of the Danish population. Methods Data were collected through qualitative research. Four focus group interviews were conducted before and four after the education program. Thirty Arabic-speaking participants were recruited from language and job centers in Copenhagen. Participants received teaching sessions in Arabic on appropriate medicine use. The education program was evaluated by two methods: a written quiz for knowledge evaluation and focus group interviews for process evaluation. It took place during the first semenester of 2012. Results The majority of the participants were dissatisfied with the knowledge about medicines inherited from their parents. They also expressed their frustrations due to communication problems with Danish doctors. According to the impressions and quiz results of participants, the program was relevant, rich in information and effective. The program helped bridge the gap between participants and doctors. The commonality of the culture, language and gender shared by the researcher pharmacist and participants enhanced the success of the program. Conclusion The education program may potentially reduce medicine-related problems by providing participants with knowledge and competencies about appropriate medicine use. We recommend implementing education programs for ethnic minorities using the cultural competence approach to the appropriate use of medicines. Ideally, programs should be implemented in places that are frequented by ethnic minorities, and taught by health professionals with the same ethnic background as participants.


Cultural competence Ethnicity Language concordance Medicine use Medicine-related problems Patient education Qualitative research 



We are grateful to the people who participated in the program. We would also like to thank Pharmakon for allowing us to use original teaching materials for translation and adaptation.


This project was funded by the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Conflicts of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 20 kb)
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Copyright information

© Koninklijke Nederlandse Maatschappij ter bevordering der Pharmacie 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lourdes Cantarero-Arévalo
    • 1
    Email author
  • Dumoue Kassem
    • 1
  • Janine Marie Traulsen
    • 1
  1. 1.Section for Social and Clinical Pharmacy, Department of Pharmacy, Faculty of Health and Medical SciencesUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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