Cultural Competency in Global Health

  • Lourens du PisanieEmail author
  • Christie Caldwell


The focus of international health projects is often on technical excellence when practicing or teaching and as such, cultural competency can often be overshadowed. Appropriately considering the cultural norms and expectations of a community is integral to any project’s success, while neglecting to do so may lead to misunderstandings, or worse, project failure. The chief aim of this chapter is to raise awareness of the importance of cultural competence in the context of international health projects among medical personnel. Secondary aims include outlining tools which can help bridge cultural gaps, and presenting a stepwise approach to forming stronger cross-cultural partnerships. Cultural self-awareness will be discussed as the critical first step toward cultural competency in this stepwise approach. The classic individualistic and the newer reflexive conceptualizations of cultural self-awareness will be compared. How to cultivate reflexive cultural self-awareness in all members of an international medical partnership will be outlined as an important means toward better mutual understanding between parties. The final concept discussed acts to tie together the above points. It is the idea that through longitudinal cooperation, bridging cultural differences, reflexive cultural self-awareness, and practicing the behaviors of idea frame-shifting and inviting the unexpected, all parties can help realize the ultimate goal of cultural competency: the co-construction of a new working culture built from mutually-agreed-upon aspects of all involved cultures that maintains respect for each individual culture.


Cultural competency Exchange, international educational Global health Cross-cultural comparison Cultural characteristics 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of MedicineChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Department of Global Talent DevelopmentAperian GlobalSan FranciscoUSA

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