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Cultural competence and antiracism training for child health professionals

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The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 requires all service providers to ensure equality of access. NHS trusts have a statutory duty to show how they intend to promote race equality and eliminate discrimination. Appropriate training of the workforce is of prime importance. Professional responses to training programmes for child service professionals in Cardiff and Huddersfield have been evaluated.

The Department of Child Health in Cardiff entered into a partnership with the local Race Equality Council in 1992 with the aim of improving services to ill or disabled children from ethnic minorities. A need for professional training was identified but available training materials were considered to be too rigidly based on knowledge of cultural differences and practice rather than promoting cultural awareness and understanding and self examination.

A new training course, the Equality Rights Equal Access (EREA) pack, was developed, the main aim of which was to promote cultural competence rather than providing lists of—for example, dietary or religious differences, or differences in naming people. Training is over one day and encourages trainees to explore their own attitudes, to recognise that their attitudes, and those of their clients, are determined by their own cultural conditioning, and to understand how racism affects services.

The Cardiff programme was piloted in 1995 in Cardiff, Bristol, and Birmingham and has been included in a MSc course in Child Health and other courses. Trainees’ questionnaire responses at the end of the training day and 2–7 years later were largely positive, many stating that attending the course had changed their behaviour or practice.

In Huddersfield the programme has been incorporated into a project funded by the Department of Health. Trainees, who in the main had either a health or an education background, reported inadequate previous guidance or training in racial or cultural awareness. Almost all (87 of 89 replies) agreed that the course was good or excellent and their objectives were achieved.

The people who run this course are clearly enthusiastic about it and able to transmit their enthusiasm to many of the trainees. They realise that from a scientific point of view it would have been better to measure changes in professional behaviour after the course directly but they were unable to do that. They recommend that similar training should be incorporated into undergraduate and postgraduate curricula by universities and Royal Colleges.