GHD Blog: Cultural Humility
April 4, 2021
by: Joel Genyk, University of Manitoba, Year 2
In recent years, interest in global health has grown within the physiotherapy profession, with an increasing number of physiotherapists and students engaging in initiatives abroad. However, this is an area of work that has recently decreased due to the emergence of COVID-19. As travel restrictions ease, these initiatives are anticipated to increase again. Health inequality is also anticipated to be magnified following the pandemic due to increased disparities in health accessibility arising from the social conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age (WHO, 2018).
Within the field of rehabilitation, participation in global health initiatives has been increasing, as those with an interest in global health see the potential for physiotherapy to have a positive impact on unmet needs around the world. The intent of travelling to provide care is often altruistic and well-received. However, we must simultaneously be aware that these initiatives can be ineffective and even harmful. Health care providers should be critical of the services they provide and the lasting implications of their work. Cleaver et al. (2016) suggest, as health care professionals, we should consider the privileges we have had to acquire a professional designation and be afforded the ability to travel.
The term “cultural humility” encourages physiotherapists to engage in reflective practices in which they actively critique their own culture as they seek out opportunities to understand others (Cleaver et al., 2016). Implementing cultural humility forces providers to acknowledge their privileges and work together with the host community to integrate practical knowledge into patient care. Doing so can increase the sustainability of health care services in the community as expertise is integrated into the community’s current health framework, leaving lasting implications that benefit the community.
Cleaver, S.R., Carvajal, J.K., & Sheppard, P.S. (2016, January 21). Cultural Humility: A Way of Thinking to Inform Practice Globally. Physiotherapy Canada, 68(1), 1-2. doi: 10.3138/ptc.68.1.GEE
World Health Organization. (2018, February 22). Health inequalities and their causes. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/facts-in-pictures/detail/health-inequities-and-their-causes?fbclid=IwAR2YcHreTYn1VuLxVZQfdN9paK-Ij3zzGZB08ePU4TyRFYyEwP5UmC8oh74