How do GPs practice cultural humility?


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New research hopes to improve health outcomes by identifying gaps in practitioners’ understanding and application of cultural humility.

General practitioner in conversation with patient

The research, led by the University of Melbourne, aims to improve healthcare and the doctor-patient relationship.


Developing professional cultural humility is a “key strategy” to address health inequalities in Australia, according to researchers at the University of Melbourne.


Defined as “shifting from mastering understandings of other cultures to a personal accountability approach in advocating against the systemic barriers that affect marginalized groups,” cultural humility is also “positively associated” with improved health outcomes for culturally and linguistically diverse people (CALD ) patients.


That’s why researchers, including RACGP President Adjunct Professor Karen Price, are asking practitioners to participate in a new project focused on assessing cultural humility in Australian GPs.


As part of the research, GPs will complete a 10- to 15-minute online survey about their interactions with patients from different cultural backgrounds, experiences of cultural humility training, and interest in continuing education in this area.


According to Professor Price, cultural humility is a fundamental aspect of healthcare.


“We need to acknowledge the many ways a sense of self and health is experienced in other cultures,” she said NewsGP.


“By staying openly curious, we can allow other ways of looking at the world to flourish. Only by making space for this can we understand the biographical history of the patient’s illness or condition.


“Then we can engage in true shared decision-making, which is an empathic ability to really engage in dialogue with our patient’s worldview.


“Our Western reductive view is helpful but limiting when we impose this on others without acknowledging each unique person we are privileged to help.”


The project aims to examine general practitioners’ self-assessment of cultural modesty and its impact on the doctor-patient relationship. It will also assess GP confidence in delivering COVID-19 public health messages to CALD patients and identify the need for further cultural literacy training.


dr Olivia O’Donoghue is a descendent of the Yankunytjatjara and Narungga peoples and Health Censor for the RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities – the first Aboriginal person to be appointed to this role.


she said NewsGP that cultural humility is an “essential attribute” for primary care physicians.


“For me, cultural humility is about understanding myself, my values, my tendencies and prejudices, my attitudes and behaviors, and how they affect those around me,” said Dr. O’Donoghue.


“It’s about knowing and feeling that I’m not an expert on myself, let alone the culture of others. Therefore, it is important to be open in dealing with others, to show respectful interest in them and their culture, and to have a genuine commitment to understanding their lived and cross-generational experience.’


Applied to healthcare, cultural humility means that healthcare practitioners recognize unconscious biases and systemic racism that affect individual and community health, address their own cultural biases and assumptions, and learn how to interact with patients from different cultural backgrounds, to provide health care in a respectful and sensitive manner.

Olivia-O-Donoghue-Article.jpgdr Olivia O’Donoghue, Aboriginal family doctor, believes cultural humility is a “fundamental attribute” to demonstrate cultural understanding and security.


In addition to seeking GP self-assessments of cultural humility, the project will also aim to improve cultural safety.


“We hope that the information gathered through this survey can help identify any gaps in existing cultural humility training in medical school and residency training,” the researchers write.


“Understanding the current landscape within a sample of the medical community will aid in the development of methods to address this aspect of healthcare, with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of care and outcomes for all patients in Australia.”


According to the research team, by identifying cultural differences within the doctor-patient relationship, this will also empower the patient to take full advantage of all the healthcare services available to them.


With regard to the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Dr. O’Donoghue that cultural humility is essential to building relationships, respect and trust.


“Cultural humility is a fundamental attribute for demonstrating cultural understanding and security,” she said.


‘[It] is a fluid state of experience-gaining, self-reflection, self-improvement and re-evaluation.’



That RACGP and National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organizations Center for Cultural Security Resources can also support healthcare providers.



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Cultural Humility of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People Cultural Security Cultural and Linguistic Diversity General Practice Research


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