Cultural Competency for School Health Educators

Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Exhibit Hall Poster Area 1 (Convention Center)
Theresa M. Enyeart Smith and Maria T. Wessel, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA

Inclusion of diversity in academic institutions is essential to teach students skills they need to thrive and lead in today’s work environments. These skills include the abilities to work well with students and colleagues from diverse backgrounds; to view issues from multiple perspectives; and to anticipate and respond with sensitivity to the needs and cultural differences. For many years our university has been identified as homogenous for numerous characteristics such as race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation.  In the last decade the value of diversity among faculty and students has increased dramatically.

The purpose of this study was to identify student views about diversity and culture to improve skills necessary to be culturally competent health educators.   Objectives of this study included identifying:

  1. Student attitudes related to acceptance and accommodation of diverse populations

  2. Student skills related to cultural competency

     3. Teaching techniques and activities for culturally competent health educators


The Diversity Survey, a 21 item survey including Likert and short answer/essay items, was IRB approved (I.D. Number 13-0125) and completed by 369 graduating students. Students were assessed on their views related to departmental and university focus on diversity;  faculty’s acceptance and accommodation of diverse populations within the curriculum and classroom; personal skill development related to becoming a culturally competent health professional; personal knowledge related to diverse populations; willingness to work with people of diverse backgrounds; and participation in various diversity awareness.


Using SPSS (v.21), descriptive statistics were determined and chi-square analyses were used to identify relationships between demographic variables and the various diversity variables.

The majority of respondents (71.2% - 87.5%) indicated positive attitudes related to faculty/staff cultural competency, with room for improvement on some items.  Some respondents disagreed or were neutral about faculty/staff use of gender neutral language (21.7%) and singling out minority students (19.0%).  Culture is defined using many attributes, however, the university is not racially diverse with over 75% of the respondents categorized as white, non-Hispanic, which is representative of the university.  No significant relationships were identified between variables.  Teaching techniques and awareness activities were identified such as workshops, community interaction and other suggestions to increase students’ cultural competency.


In general, students had positive responses related to culture and diversity.  Increases in knowledge and professional skills should be ongoing to provide effective health education.  Cultural competency is a critical framework for inclusive and effective health education.

  • SHAPE 2015 Handout (Cultural Competency for School Health Educators).pdf (251.3 kB)