Establishing Effective Cross-Cultural Alliances with Diverse Consumer Populations



Health and human services organizations across the country are serving a population of increasing racial, ethnic and linguistic diversity. While American-born historically underserved populations have traditionally held high visibility on the caseloads of these organizations, current immigration and population trends indicate that in the coming years these agencies will serve populations of increasing diversity and complexity.

According to the National Migration Policy Institute, 41.3 million immigrants lived in the United States in 2013 (Zong & Batalova, 2015). This represents 13% of the total U.S. population of 316 million. The U.S. population that is foreign-born has increased by 1.3% between 2012 and 2013, or 524,000 people. According to the Pew Research Center, the black immigrant population from African countries grew from 570,000 to 1.4 million, an increase of 137% from 2000 to 2013. Africans make up 36% of the overall foreign-born black population, up from 24% in 2000. Half of the black immigrants in the United States were born in the Anglophone (English-speaking) Caribbean countries (www. The Latino population has increased sixfold in the United States, growing from 9.1 million to 53 million in 2012. Latinos currently represent 17% of the U.S. population; this figure is expected to reach 31% by 2060 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012). As was discussed by Gonzalez in Chapter 12, the Hispanic population has much within-group diversity that must be given consideration in the design and delivery of services.

These numbers emphasize that human services organizations must incorporate these demographic shifts in planning policy, programs and practice interventions, and professional workers must be prepared with the knowledge, skillsets, and competencies to serve clients who will likely have worldviews that are significantly different from their own. Relative to the immigrant and refugee populations, as suggested by Potocky-Tripodi (2002), a “pancultural” perspective that is broad enough to include the common experiences and practice approaches for a range of immigrant and refugee groups will be important. These agencies will also be required to incorporate corrective policies and practices that address the persistence of ethnic and racial disparities among segments of the population that identify as people of color that are of concern to this book.

This chapter focuses on challenges that health and human services organizations and professional workers confront in establishing inclusive organizational environments and practice responses that are conducive to making their services accessible and more widely available to racially and ethnically diverse consumer groups. The discussion endeavors to enhance understanding of the significance of culture, race, and racism in the provision of health and human services and the need for self-awareness on the part of the professional helper in recognizing the internalization of sociopolitical and ethnocentric orientations found to come to the fore when serving clients who are ethnically different from them.

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