For a discussion of how cultural competence can be integrated into education, go to the website of the Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice.

For books about serving diverse families in educational settings, here are several:

  • Maya Kalyanpour, PhD and Beth Harry, PhD (1999). Culture in Special Education: Building Reciprocal Family-Professional Relationships. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing. $28.00. Although intended for teachers, this softcover book of 199 pages contains anecdotes, case studies and discussions that may be helpful to interpreters, parent-teacher liaisons and other staff members who work with foreign-born children or parents. It focuses on undermining stereotypes and developing effective relationships, in part by showing respect for cultural beliefs.

  • Beth Harry, PhD, Maya Kalyanpour, PhD and Monamalika Day (1999). Building Cultural Reciprocity with Families: Case Studies in Special Education. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing. $30.00. This book of 256 pages builds on eight case studies of multicultural families to deepen the cultural sensitivity of educators and enhance services to diverse families. Although focused on special education, it addresses broad issues.

  • Eleanor W. Lynch, PhD and Marci J. Hanson, PhD, Eds (2004), Developing Cross-Cultural Competence: A Guide for Working with Children and Their Families, 3rd edition. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing. $44.95. This significant work of 544 pages focuses on providing information on how to work effectively with families and children with disabilities from specific cultural, ethnic and language groups.

  • Isaura Barrera, PhD., with Robert M. Corso, PhD. and Dianna Macpherson, MSW, CISW (2003). Skilled Dialogue: Strategies for Responding to Cultural Diversity in Early Childhood. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing. $29.95. How to make a difficult interaction go smoothly? This book emphasizes its own model for "respectful, reciprocal and responsive interaction that honors cultural beliefs and values" in early education.


  • Anne Fadiman (1977). The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. A tragic but riveting story about a Hmong child with epilepsy and the health care system that fails to grasp her family's culture.

  • Geri-Ann Galanti (1997). Caring for Patients from Different Cultures: Case Studies from American Hospitals. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. A cornucopia of over 200 cultural case studies: true stories that illustrate a variety of cultural themes in health care.

  • Rena C. Gropper (1996). Culture and the Clinical Encounter: An Intercultural Sensitizer for the Health Professions. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press. This book contains exercises that offer fascinating opportunities for group discussion. Each cross-cultural encounter or critical incident is presented with possible solutions.

  • Juliene G. Lipson and Suzanne L. Dibble, Eds (2005). Culture & Clinical Care. San Francisco: University of CA at San Francisco. An updated edition of Culture and Nursing Care, this book targets 35 cultural groups addressing communication, spiritual/religious issues, food practices, family relationships, birth and death rituals, symptom management, etc. by authors from relevant cultural groups.

  • Larry D. Purnell and Bettty J. Paulanka, Eds (2003). Transcultural Health Care: A Culturally Competent Approach. Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis Company, 2003. Adopts a table format with 12 steps for considering any culture from the perspective of a clinical encounter.

  • Joan K. Parry and Angela Shen Ryan (2000). A Cross-Cultural Look at Death, Dying, and Religion. Chicago: Nelson Hall. An excellent resource for hospices, hospitals and services to the aging.

  • Rachel E. Spector, Cultural Diversity in Health & Illness,6th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000. A wealth of detailed information on traditional healing practices, traditional healers and folk medicine.

  • Rundle, Anne K., Mary R. Robinson, and Maria L. Carvalho, Eds. (2002). Cultural Competence in Health Care: A Practical Guide. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

  • Tsen, Wen-Shing, MD, John Streltzer (2008), Cultural Competence in Health Care. New York, NY: Springer.

    Female Genital Cutting:

  • Nahid Toubia, MD Caring for Women With Circumcision: A Technical Manual for Health Care Providers. New York, NY: RAINBO, 1999, 94 pp. $17.95
    The development of this book was supported by Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

  • FORWARD Ltd Female Genital Mutilation: A Counseling Guide for Professionals. Africa Centre, 38 King Street, London WC2E 8JT, U.K., 1992.

  • For a video on the subject of female genital cutting: Dedman, Penny (Director) Rites. Video, 52 minutes. American Anthropological Association. Filmmakers Library, 124 East 40th Street, NYC 10016. (212) 808-4980, 1991.

CULTURAL PROFILES Cultural profiles and ethnic health profiles are valuable tools for staff and volunteers. Most are brief (a few pages or less) and free of charge. They provide information about the culture, language and/or important health issues that affect the population. However, authors try to avoid stereotyping or bias. Such documents can be used as a tool to guide services to clients from a particular culture or to stimulate informal discussions among staff, volunteers and interpreters on these complex issues.

Some of the profiles at sites listed below include Arab, Bosnian, Cambodian, Cuban, Ethiopian/Eritrean, Haitian, Iraqi, Kosovar, Kurdish, Laotian, Liberian, Mien, Nigerian, Oromo, Samoan, Somali, South Asian, Soviet Jewish, Sudanese, Ukrainian and Vietnamese cultures, among others:

Cultural and Ethnic Health Profiles

In addition, a New York State University website at provides excellent bibliographies on culturally competent health care for several different ethnic groups: African, Arab, Asian, Bosnian, Ethiopian, Hispanic, Hmong, Puerto Rican, Russian and Vietnamese. The site also provides bibliographies on cultural competence and cultural aspects of death and dying, dental care, domestic violence, medical interpreters, mental health, pharmacology, traditional medicine and women's health, among others.

The Provider's Guide to Quality and Culture is a joint project of several organizations, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Bureau of Primary Health Care. This detailed online guide includes health information on specific cultures and other valuable cultural information for organizations that serve minority, LEP and foreign-born clients. To access the guide at no cost, go to:

<> CultureGrams (182 cultures)
CultureGrams are also cultural profiles but unlike the resources above, they are a commercial product. While they do cost money, they include many countries not covered by the free resources, are organized by country and can be purchased individually (currently at $4.00 each). In four pages they offer detailed, organized information in such categories as: Background, People, Customs and Courtesies, Lifestyle, and Society. For more information, go to To see a sample at no charge (Bulgaria), go to To order one particular country or culture, go to

This may be a particularly helpful option when free online resources are not available for a particular client's country or culture.


Refugees are in particular need of sensitive services from interpreters. A high percentage of them suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, substance abuse, and histories of sexual assault, starvation, deprivation and/or ill health at refugee camps. For information regarding their special needs, either for interpreters or for blingual staff to share with colleagues and administrators, you may wish to consul the following websites:

Other Resources in Cultural Competence

Cultural competence in a context of ethnic tension (article)

These OMH cultural competence online courses support the U.S. national Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services standards.