Increasing cultural competence through project H.O.P.E. (healthy occupations for people everywhere)
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The 2015 U.S. Census predicts that over the next 30 years, the population of the United States will be increasingly diverse (United Stated Census Bureau, 2015). Understanding how this diversity influences healthcare, and more specifically the practice of occupational therapy, has become increasingly important. Occupational therapy practitioners encounter cultural factors when assessing a client’s occupational needs yet 91% of OT programs surveyed reported barriers to teaching multi-cultural curricula (Brown, Muñoz, & Powell, 2011), and more than half of practicing OTs surveyed want to learn more about cultural competence skills (Hildebrand et al., 2013). Evidence supports that there is a gap between what is currently being taught and that practitioners need to know. Project H.O.P.E. is an evidence-based, theory-driven service-learning course designed to increase cultural competence in OT students. It includes assignments, activities, reading and lectures to facilitate short term service learning projects promoting healthy occupations in the underserved community. Students are guided to be self-aware of their own cultural attributes as a starting point to learning about culture in a wider context of history, healthcare and society. This material is presented first in the classroom in lecture format, then used in small groups and eventually applied while working on short term programs within Head Start programs, homeless shelters and after school adolescent programs in the underserved community. Project H.O.P.E. provides a way to define and measure student self-assessment of cultural competence, and to prepare OT students to work in today’s diverse clinical settings.